The topic of criminal justice reform and how society could better handle lawbreakers is a common subject here at Bearing Arms. Take for example two different vantage points on the same topic, both valid and slightly complimentary, between Tom and myself, on a controversial story involving a prosecutor dropping some 15 gun charges in New Orleans. When it comes to the justice system, there’s one area that a near supermajority agrees on, and that’s the setting of bail weighted against potential danger to the community. A recent Rasmussen Reports® poll turned up some strong results on the subject.
Crime has emerged as a major political issue, and voters overwhelmingly disagree with controversial “bail reform” measures that return criminals to the streets.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 91% of Likely U.S. Voters believe that, when determining how much bail to require for suspects arrested and awaiting trial, it is important for judges to consider whether the suspect would represent a danger to the community if released. That includes 76% who say it’s Very Important for judges to consider whether a suspect is a danger to the community. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis made headlines last month when he went to Staten Island to criticize New York as “the only state that doesn’t allow judges to consider — when they’re making a bail determination — whether someone’s a danger to the community.”
Majorities of every political category – 72% of Democrats, 81% of Republicans and 75% of voters unaffiliated with either major party – think danger to the community should be a Very Important consideration in determining bail for criminal suspects.
Progressive strongholds are notorious for having a revolving door criminal justice system. Often we can find stories of criminals who have been released on one’s own recognizance, or on a paltry amount of bail, being caught up committing another crime in short order. That was the case of Darrell E. Brooks Jr., who committed the Waukesha Christmas parade attack in 2021. Brooks was arrested three weeks before he plowed through a crowd of people at the parade for hitting his girlfriend with his car, and was released after only posting $1000.00 bail. That offense was alleged to not be Brooks’ first, with him having a past full of serious criminal allegations.
What’s an appropriate bail, who should have control, and the proper application of appropriate bonds are all things that are important when dealing with public safety when a crime has been committed. The case for bail reform and egregiously high bonds being levied against marginalized communities is a valid concern. So is the topic of just releasing suspects with an already weighty criminal history after allegedly committing a violent act. That thousand dollars bail in the case of Brooks cost six people their lives.
Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Likely Voters believe that courts are releasing too many criminals back onto the streets, compared to 26% who think that courts are sending too many criminals to prison. Another 17% are not sure.
Majorities of every racial category – 82% of whites, 53% of black voters and 70% of other minorities say it’s Very Important for judges to consider if suspects are a danger to the community when determining bail.
This country does have an issue with prioritizing what cases should get attention and which ones should not. The people of the U.S. do seem to universally agree that automatic release and removing the discretion of judges to hold a suspect in a criminal case pending a trial would be inappropriate.
There is a delicate minuet that must be done when exercising such powers. One of the beautiful things of living in the U.S. is that we’re assumed innocent until proven guilty in our criminal justice system. We legally give people the benefit of doubt. We’ve seen gross abuses of the system with the locking up of persons involved in the demonstrations on January 6th, 2021, without granting bail or scheduling speedy trials. The system can easily be abused where people can quickly become political prisoners when arrested for mopery.
What’s apparent is that something has to change if it’s society’s view that the majority believe too many criminals are being put back on the streets. The proof is also in the statistics, if jurisdictions are being honest, with progressive areas seeing incredible upticks in crime in areas that utilized so-called “defunding” and or bail reform tactics. We don’t have a vested interest as a civilized society to allow those who are alleged to have committed a crime to be released on little or no bail, just like we can’t expect to lock everyone up for every crime. As with near every statue or depiction of Justitia – her holding scales – in practical applications, there too needs to be balance in our system. In this case, life should imitate art.