Retired Superior Court Judge Writes Scathing Piece on Proposed Jail Reform
In a recent article published by the San Francisco Examiner, retired Superior Court judge and former State Senator Quentin L. Kopp writes about the potential (or more likely inevitable) problems with the bail reform proposed by SB 10. The bill was defeated in June of this year but is up for reconsideration next year. In the article, Judge Kopp points out the issues that have arisen in other states with similar bills that passed. New Jersey, New Mexico, Colorado and the District of Columbia have all adopted similar reform bills that allow most criminals to be released on their own recognizance or use a computer algorithm to determine a risk assessment of the defendant. The problem is that judges should decide what risk a defendant is to society, not a computer. A computer cannot take the human element into account. The worst-case scenario has already come to light. 21% of those released under this pretrial assessment in Houston have failed to appear at future court dates. With the bail system in place, the failure to appear rate was 3.8% according to Judge Kopp’s article.
Worse yet, a man on “no-bail” release in San Francisco committed a heinous murder after being released under the “risk assessment” completed by a computer. In New Jersey, a federal suit is pending after a murder was committed by a person released without bail.
Bail plays a crucial role in protecting the public. Judges perform risk assessments all the time on defendants who are entitled to a bail review hearing. Bail agents absorb the cost of tracking down fugitives which would otherwise fall on taxpayers and an overburdened court system. Nevada’s governor already vetoed a similar bill and many in California have come out against the proposal.