Monday, November 29, 2021

Bail Reform, Not Edge Case Excuses

The day after a driver killed several people in a parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, I wrote that it was an edge case that shouldn't be used as a reason to require stronger barricades at every public event.

Since then, it has turned out that the driver was out on a mistakenly low bail from a repeat domestic violence charge. That has led to an automatic reaction from some people, lashing out at current efforts to reform bail.

This thread by Alec Karakatsanis, executive director of Civil Rights Corps, explains why that's another edge case that shouldn't be used to turn back the little progress that has been made on cash bail reform.

Here are a couple of his tweets:

...the scientific evidence is that cash bail makes communities *less safe* by increasing instability, lost jobs, lost housing, separating kids, interrupting medical/mental health care, traumatizing people in jail, etc. People who say otherwise doing equivalent of climate denial.

And the scientific evidence is that each year a person spends in jail/prison *takes two years from their life.* We cage so many people that it *lowers overall U.S. life expectancy.*

A couple facts to know about bail fear-mongering: since almost nowhere in the U.S. has done meaningful bail reform, the people blaming "bail reform" for bad outcomes (in Wisconsin, for example) have no idea what they are talking about. Ask them questions like, which reform, when?

Also, in the few places that have done bail reform like (DC, NY, NJ) the overwhelming evidence is that caging far fewer people for lacking cash improves safety. 

The case of Kalief Browder is pretty well-known, but there are hundreds, thousands, who knows how many Kalief Browder-like cases in jails across this country. The examples in Karakatsanis's thread are just a few.

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