For years now self-proclaimed “progressives” have been trying to put one over on the American public. This ongoing scam goes by the name “Bail Reform” and, like cultural termites, its advocates have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to promote an increasingly bizarre and untenable array of proposals aimed solely at putting the bondsman out of business.

For a time their notion of replacing bail with pretrial computer algorithms (that leverage big data to determine whether a person should be released or held pending their court date) gained quite a head of steam. So much so that several states, including California, adopted some variation of the concept.

Fortunately, a number of organizations who were at first gung-ho in their support of “risk assessment algorithms” (as they’re called) have finally seen the light. And in a major rebuke they, in concert with bail bonding companies, have formed a united defense against this short-sighted and fatally flawed system.

Facing the Truth

Turns Out Bail Bonds May Not be so Bad After All

In what can only be characterized as a stunning turn of events more than 100 high profile nationwide organizations closely associated with the fight for civil rights have joined the bail industry in calling for the elimination of pretrial risk assessments. These heavyweight groups include the NAACP, the ACLU, Black Lives Matter and more.

Why the Sudden Change of Heart?

Many of these groups, including the ACLU and NAACP were solidly behind risk assessment algorithms when they were first proposed several years ago. The feeling in those heady days was that these computer programs would finally eliminate what was perceived as biases baked into the bail system that made it increasingly difficult for poor people of color to secure bail.

But it didn’t take long for cracks to appear in the reform armor. As the system was gradually adopted and statistics began to roll in it became painfully obvious that there was virtually no difference in the number of poor people of color being detained. In fact, in many cities and counties, incarceration rates for poor people of color actually increased once the new system was in place. The reason, it’s believed, is that the algorithms are based on systemic knowledge that itself is based on age old biases. Essentially, the computer programs themselves were and are racist.

Algorithms Gone Wrong

There was (and to a certain extent still is) serious money behind the development of risk assessment algorithms. People like billionaire hedge fund manager John Arnold for example have financed their development and implementation and have been slow to admit that they have a problem child on their hands.

The well-respected MacArthur Foundation, however, has shown no reluctance in calling out the problems with risk assessment algorithms. They point out that in Saint Louis pretrial incarceration has increased more than 21% since risk assessment has been introduced. And in Spokane Washington it has jumped by nearly 17%. The exact opposite of what was expected.

The New Jersey Debacle

The Garden State is the only state to have rolled out John Arnold’s risk assessment algorithm statewide and the results speak for themselves. Since New Jersey ditched cash bail in 2016 and replaced it with the Arnold system proponents have been desperately trying to find some bright side to the mess they created.

  • They point to the fact that more people are being released quickly following arrests but fail to mention that many of those being released by the computer have been charged with extremely serious crimes.
  • They point to the fact that fewer people are being held pending trial but ignore the fact that a higher percentage of them are now poor people of color.
  • They say the cost of the system will be covered by increased court costs but fail to mention that the system has had a funding shortfall of tens of millions of dollars each year since it was introduced.
  • And perhaps the most important thing they fail to mention is that more people than ever are not showing up for their court date. That’s because, since there is no chance they’ll forfeit their bail money, they have nothing to lose by staying home.

And finally, the judiciary in the state have warned of a looming financial calamity since there simply aren’t enough resources to monitor everyone being released by the new program.

The All Powerful Judge

Whether in Adams County, Broomfield County, Weld County or Denver judges have a difficult job. No one will dispute that. But what they don’t have, or at least haven’t had until recently, is the power to unilaterally decide to hold someone pretrial. In the past if they decided to deny someone bail they would have had to show cause. Now they don’t. Both New Jersey and California have given judges broad new powers to determine whether to hold a defendant. Even if the risk assessment algorithm determines someone is not a flight risk the judge can override and order someone held indefinitely without having to explain why. And once they decide to hold you that’s that.

A Return to Common Sense

The ACLU, NAACP, the bondsman and others recognize that pretrial risk assessments are a failed concept and have withdrawn their support. As a result states across the country are taking a second look at the juggernaut of bail reform and deciding to reject untenable programs and concepts and wait until a genuine solution comes along.