In Iowa, an experiment is coming to an end. At the end of December, a program in place in several counties to determine in which cases it’s safe to release defendants as they await trial will end. Earlier this year, legislators tried to shut down the experiment, which is running (for the moment) in four counties. Now, whether they continue or not is in question.
Iowa, as all states seem to do, has given its tool an acronym – the Iowa Public Safety Assessment, or PSA, is intended to help judges determine which defendants may be safely released and which should remain in custody until their trials. Iowa is ultimately seeking to eliminate “inequality” in the cash bail system, which sees those with money released from jail while they await trial. Many are against this, however, arguing that the assessment tools don’t do as good a job as judges on their own, and don’t provide the monetary incentive to return to court.
Polk County Supervisor Tom Hockensmith supports the use of the PSA tool. Likewise, Jerry Evans, the executive director of the Fifth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, supports the assessment tool and notes:
“I know that the governor is aware of what we’re doing and I’m hopeful again that all of us collaboratively can come up with how best we believe we can improve the pretrial process. Our role was just to say, ‘Judge, if you release this defendant, this is the level of supervision we think we can provide.”
One of the issues at play here, however, is the tendency for bureaucrats of all stripes to want to extend their reach or dominion rather than shrinking it. Taking away cash bail does just that by removing it from the hands of private companies and the accused and putting it almost entirely in the hands of the state. As history has shown time again, a concentration of power in any state can be a dangerous thing…to say the least.