This was a big year for criminal justice reform in Florida. Most of the 296 page reform that passed is geared towards reducing the prison population and making it easier for felons to obtain professional licenses. The reform package also addresses driver license suspensions as penalty for certain crimes and raises the threshold of felony theft from $300 to $750; this is the first change in 35 years to the legal threshold from misdemeanor to felony in FL.
Real Reform is needed
Across the nation criminal justice reform is a hot topic with the democrats and liberal elitist. I hear and see this on a daily basis and always wonder if they actually have worked or actively involved with the arrest, and pretrial process. There is reform that makes sense and a false narrative of reform created by people that want to erode criminal accountability.
One of the false narratives is that poor people are languishing in jail because they cannot afford bail. This is simply not true, no one is arrested because they are poor, they’re arrested because they have committed crimes. Dr. Krahl of the University of Tampa did a two year study of defendants arrested and detained in County jails across Florida; his findings destroy the false narrative social justice warriors are claiming.
These reformers are clinging to the idea that an algorithm would be fairer than cash bail. I don’t really think they have thought long term about that. The risk assessment tools have been proven false, racist, and gender bias by many who have studied them. 27 prominent researches from Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, and other well known college’s advise to end the use of these algorithms in lieu of bail.
What A World Looks Like without Cash Bail
Let’s take an example of what a world looks like without cash bail. Recently there was a hip hop artist by the name of ASAP ROCKY arrested in Sweden and detained for nearly a month pending trial. Sweden does not use a cash bail system, so you are detained until the ones prosecuting you decide to release. This type of scenario will be prominent for some criminal defendants in the US because of the racial and gender bias that risk assessment tools (algorithms) create if we get rid of cash bail.
Now let’s get to some meaningful reform that could take place. When someone is arrested for a new crime while on probation in the state of Florida, this will trigger a violation of probation.
If you are on felony probation you will automatically be held on what’s called a PC/VOP (probable cause violation of probation).
If you are on misdemeanor probation your violation will come at a later date when your paperwork is processed through the courts. Most Felony and misdemeanor VOP’s will not have a bond attached and defendants will ultimately end up sitting in jail for 1-3 months awaiting a resolution to the case.
Now that you know how a violation of probation works, does it make since to sit in jail a month without bail for a misdemeanor violation on a pot charge or some other petty crime?
Bail should be granted to all misdemeanor probation violations if lawmakers really care about people languishing away and cleaning out our county jails. The majority of the presentenced population at any county jail in Florida has some type of Violation hold without bail, these are facts.
Every year the Florida legislature convenes to write new bills into law. Many of the bills are geared to reduce jail and prison population by any means necessary, which includes public safety.
I am a bail bondsman and have worked in the criminal justice system since 1998. Every day I am in the trenches of our judicial system navigating through my clients legal troubles.
Have you ever heard the saying “if it’s not broke don’t fix it”?
This is how I feel about the bail system FL currently has. Certain State Representatives are trying so desperately to change cash bail, when their efforts should be geared at other reform.
Take for example the typical traffic stop in FL; if you are pulled over and happen to be driving without a license, most County and City agencies will give you a citation arrest as long as this isn’t your umpteenth dwls charge. These are on scene arrest and release that bypasses you going to jail and needing bonded out.
These types of on scene arrest and releases are at the law enforcement officer’s discretion and are also used for charges like; Possession Marijuana less than 20 grams, Petit Theft, Retail Theft No Valid DL, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Over half of these on scene arrests end in a Failure to Appear for the defendant.
Reform is missing the mark
Reformers are missing the mark by trying to eliminate cash bail and lessening the penalties of certain crimes.
More reform needs to take place on violation crimes that you are held in jail without bail for months. Defendants are not losing their homes and jobs from a new arrest that has bail and can be bonded out, they are losing their livelihood from being stuck in jail without bail for a misdemeanor violation of probation.
If only FL legislatures could see the impact of allowing bail for violation of probations, they would be convinced this is a great way to clear out the jail and save big on the budget.