Texans deserve risk-based, not wealth-based bail system


Last month, New Orleans Detective Everett Briscoe on leave and his friend. Dyrin “DJ” Riculfy, were shot dead in aggravated robbery in houston.

The tragedy surrounding their murders was only compounded by the news that their alleged killers were freed through six combined criminal bonds, including cashless bonds, a $ 40,000 aggravated assault bond with a deadly weapon, and $ 75,000 for theft. A judge had revoked the bond of one of them after he failed to appear in court.

Sadly, this cycle of violent recidivism has been a common theme in Harris County and
throughout the state. Due to a failed bail system primarily based on the ability to pay rather than the individual’s risk of being a danger to others, many high risk offenders are released while low risk offenders are released. left in prison. This system continually puts Texans at risk, and it must change.

Just days after the senseless murders of Briscoe and Riculfy, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6, named the Act Damon Allen in memory of a state soldier who was murdered by an individual on bail in 2017. It is now on Governor Greg Abbott’s desk, waiting to be proclaimed into law.

The Damon Allen Law will be a first step in reforming Texas’ failing rehab system and is essential in protecting our communities. Abbott rightly declared bail reform is an emergency item of the 87th legislature, allowing Conservative lawmakers to take the lead on this issue.

Largely a Republican-led effort, lawmakers have spent months garnering bipartisan support for this reform which will improve the training of magistrates, increase transparency in the pre-trial system and provide magistrates with more information when making bail decisions. The reform also bans cashless releases for defendants accused of violent and sexual offenses. Low-risk defendants are now given the least restrictive link to avoid pre-trial detention for the sole reason that they cannot pay bail.

However, while limiting the use of personal bonds will prevent high-risk defendants from being released without cash, these defendants will still have the option of being released on cash bail. In Texas, the defendants have a constitutional right bail – meaning that unless an accused is charged with capital murder or meets certain criteria for repeated violent crimes, the judge cannot detain an accused, but must pay the accused’s bail, little doesn’t matter how dangerous he thinks he is.

This creates a system in which high-risk defendants who can afford bail can buy their freedom – despite the threat to public safety they pose.

Lawmakers have had the opportunity to fix this problem. Proposal constitutional amendment, SJR 3, would have given judges the discretion to refuse bail when certain violent and sexual offenses were involved. This is generally called preventive detention.

Allowing judges to detain high-risk defendants who pose a threat to public safety before trial is not rocket science. It is not unorthodox or even revolutionary. In reality, many states allow the denial of bail for a variety of offenses and circumstances beyond capital murder, and nine states do not have a constitutional right to bail. And the federal criminal justice system rests almost exclusively on a risk assessment to determine pre-trial detention.

Pre-trial detention is not intended to deprive defendants of their due process rights or to disregard the presumption of innocence. Everyone has the right to due process and everyone is innocent until proven guilty. However, the The Supreme Court has ruled that not everyone has the right to be released on bail. In that decision, the judges asserted that court appearance and public safety should be taken into account when determining pre-trial release conditions; if there are no conditions that would reasonably ensure public safety, interim release may be refused.

Unfortunately, the extension of pre-trial detention has been the victim of a political standoff and a disinformation campaign organized by left-wing opponents. Magistrates must now try to guess how high the amount is enough for a bail on a defendant who poses a threat to their community.

The bond has turned out to be a poor pre-emptive mechanism to ensure public safety. The murders of Allen, Briscoe and Riculfy, the countless other victims and their families, demand a resizing of the pre-trial system. That means giving judges the discretion to deny bail when that’s the only way to protect Texans.

As we celebrate the enactment of the Damon Allen Law, critical work remains to be done before the rehab system truly serves the safety interests of Texans. When the legislature meets again in 2023, we must continue to fight for a system based on risk, not wealth.

Tolman, a former US attorney, is the executive director and Pressley is the Texas state director of Right on Crime., a national campaign supporting conservative solutions to reduce crime, restore victims, reform offenders and reduce costs to taxpayers.

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