While some are predicting that recent legislation across various states – especially California – may be the death knell for cash bail in the U.S., others aren’t so sure of that contention. To paraphrase Mark Twain, such reports may be “greatly exaggerated.” Really, the only thing that may be said with confidence and some level of certainty is that the issue is not “solved.”
In Maryland, statistics clearly show that new laws to curb the use of cash bail are simply resulting in more people staying in jail – the exact opposite of what proponents of such “reform” intended.
Here’s a survey of some of what is being written now regarding this ongoing debate:
- Dan Walters, of the Enterprise Record, says that the “War on bail bonds has only just begun” – he’s referring primarily to California Senate Bill No. 10, which essentially does away with bail in the state. Opponents of the bill are spending millions of dollars to gather the 365,880 signatures required to have a repeal referendum placed on the 2020 ballot in the state, and by all measures it appears they will be successful. Perhaps worse for those in favor of “reform” is the fact that the actual enactment of the legislation involved some last-minute changes that were opposed by previous supporters, including the ACLU.
- Of course, there are no shortage of opinions on the matter, and apparently no hesitancy among writers to express those opinions. The Daily Progress notes that “bad people do bad things…when they’re caught, they should be arrested and charged. If they present a danger to society, they should stay in jail awaiting their trial.” A simple enough notion…except when it’s time to apply the rules. Far from being progressive, the stance of this article seems to be that keeping people in jail if they meet a nebulous definition of “unsafe” is the best approach, forgetting (perhaps) that even in a system of cash bail, a judge has the latitude to deny bail to the most serious alleged wrongdoers and those he or she feels may be a danger to society or flight risk.
- Closer to home, in Hagerstown, attorney Ira Cooke, a former lobbyist for the bail bonds industry in Maryland, laments the fact that his clients are staying in jail rather than being released on bail. He notes:
They have basically eliminated a judge’s choice in what he or she may do. Instead of having a myriad of choices by what amount you set bail and those kind of things, that no longer exists. So the judges find themselves in a position, most of the time, where they either release the defendant, what we call ROR — release on recognizance — which means you give your word to show up in court … and you may not be subject to pretrial supervision. On the other side of the coin, if they don’t want to release you ROR, many of the judges — and all of them in this county — have put a person on a no release status … as a result of this Maryland Executive Rules Committee rule.