Checking in on Bail Reform
America’s high prison incarceration rates are known around the world – an embarrassment for an alleged beacon of liberty. Yet few realize that we have another problem associated with our jails. Those charged with a crime are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but our bail system disproportionately punishes the poor and reverses the formula – making them guilty until proven innocent.
I have previously covered the civil liberties issues associated with cash bail back in 2018, and how a wave of states was starting to test out alternatives. Since then, New York has joined that wave — eliminating their bail system for pre-trial offenders who are not deemed high risk. This is great news: other states have proven that it works to reduce jail populations and ensure that people who do not belong behind bars are released prior to trial.
But just when I thought it was time to celebrate, Reason Magazine’s Joe Lancaster informs me that these reforms are in jeopardy. New York Governor Kathy Hochul is working behind the scenes to roll back the reforms – expanding the number of crimes eligible for bail, against the findings of a new report that shows the change in the law is working as intended.
Joe Lancaster, an assistant editor at Reason, joined me to break down the findings of the report, and the status of other state-based bail reforms.