Bail Reform fails to consider Victims’ Rights
Bail reform is one of the hot topics across the country right now. In trying to address problems in the criminal justice system, some have opted for eliminating the current bail system without a full understanding of who bail protects and why it was established in the first place. Bail has been around for centuries, with roots in the Middle Ages and the Habeas Corpus Act and the English Bill of Rights of 1689 which prohibited excessive bail. These provisions helped to construct the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Since the inception of American Law, noncapital offenses were deemed to be eligible for bail. In 1966 Congress passed the Bail Reform Act, followed by the Bail Reform Act of 1984. Both acts were designed to protect indigent defendants from excessive bail and ensure that dangerous criminals were not released into the community.
Without question there are inequities in the criminal justice system, but eliminating bail fails to address any real problems. In fact, many argue that it creates more problems for the community-at-large. A recent op-ed in the Sacramento Bee addresses the issue from the prospective of Victim’s rights. Marc Klaas, President of Klaas Kids Foundation, eloquently reminds us to be cognizant of the rights of victims and their protections guaranteed under Marsy’s Law and the California’s Victim Bill of Rights. He explains that the current proposed legislation, Senate Bill 10, allows defendants to get out of jail without allowing victims the right to “be notified, to be informed, and an opportunity to testify, before an accused defendant can be released from jail.”
Mr. Klaas is not the first to raise these concerns. Nina Salarno Besselman, President of Crime Victims United, in addressing the California Department of Insurance, advocated Victims’ Rights reminding proponents of Bail Reform that those affected by crimes have the right to be heard at bail hearings and that the risk assessments done in pre-trial release programs like the one proposed in SB-10 do not take the victim into consideration or the defendant’s true criminal history, only their convictions. It begs the question whether gutting the current bail system really solves the problem or creates more.