Michelle Alexander, an opinion columnist for the New York Times made some interesting comparisons between recent criminal justice reforms (especially bail reform) and Jim Crow. That can’t be good. So why is a writer with a progressive mindset coming out against bail reform? Like many, she feels it’s not fixing any of the problems it’s intended to fix, while creating still other problems that are similar to those plaguing the nation since its founding.
Talking about the recent reforms, Alexander, who first referred to the American criminal justice system as “The New Jim Crow” in 2010, notes:
This progress is unquestionably good news, but there are warning signs blinking brightly. Many of the current reform efforts contain the seeds of the next generation of racial and social control, a system of “e-carceration” that may prove more dangerous and more difficult to challenge than the one we hope to leave behind.
Alexander is a good writer, with a knack for quickly summarizing complex issues with simple words or phrases that both catch the attention of the reader and make a comparison that is easy to grasp. Make no mistake – Alexander is in favor of abolishing cash bail, a stance we do not agree with. But at least she’s willing to be honest about what’s replacing cash bail in states where such initiatives are gaining traction.
But what’s taking the place of cash bail may prove even worse in the long run. In California, a presumption of detention will effectively replace eligibility for immediate release when the new law takes effect in October 2019. And increasingly, computer algorithms are helping to determine who should be caged and who should be set “free.” Freedom — even when it’s granted, it turns out — isn’t really free.
Wow. Did a progressive just dismantle the case for the current system of bail reform in one article? If anyone in a position of power (other than former Enron executives) is listening, she just may have done so.
Weapons of Math Destruction
We love data. Especially big data, statistics, and the good that can come from using them for analysis. But even data scientists realize that these things can go badly awry when applied to the “human condition.” Says data scientist Cathy O’Neill, “It’s tempting to believe that computers will be neutral and objective, but algorithms are nothing more than opinions embedded in mathematics.”
Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire
Proponents of bail reform argue that the bail bondsman who profit from money bail should be put out of business. We are a reviled group. But who will benefit from the new system? If you don’t like bail bondsmen…you’re REALLY going to hate what comes next!
Who benefits from this? Private corporations. According to a report released last month by the Center for Media Justice, four large corporations — including the GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies — have most of the private contracts to provide electronic monitoring for people on parole in some 30 states, giving them a combined annual revenue of more than $200 million just for e-monitoring.
Let’s try this one on for size:
“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Alexander again? Nope. That one is from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.