The Texas Alliance for Safe Communities (TASC) is a non-profit organization fighting for sensible criminal justice policy solutions in Texas. Although our advocacy is focused on a number of issues facing the state’s criminal justice system – including promoting mental health intervention and speaking up for victims, among others – we see the issue of bail reform as the most imminent threat to the safety of our communities, thus demanding the attention of Texans first and foremost. As the breadth of our organization grows and criminal justice policy discussions evolve, TASC looks forward to having thoughtful discussions with decision makers and Texans to determine the most pressing needs of the state and how best to address them.
Texas is dangerously flirting with abandoning a tried-and-true bail system that has for decades kept our communities safe and criminals off our streets.
In 2017, an activist federal judge declared the Harris County bail system unconstitutional, ordering all defendants to be released within 24 hours of arrest, regardless of their crimes or ability to pay.
This has set off a domino effect around the state, causing counties to make impulse decisions to overhaul their bail system and creating a public safety crisis in neighborhoods across Texas. Crimes are being committed at higher rates in areas where bail reform has gained traction and law enforcement has suffered as a result.
This catch-and-release system has led to more dangerous criminals roaming our streets with little accountability or supervision, which bondsmen have provided for generations. Many defendants recommit crimes while out of jail or never bother to show back up for court. In areas where bail reform has been implemented, the rate of those who fail to appear in court has drastically increased.
Efforts to reform the release system unfairly penalize victims of crimes, who desperately seek justice as defendants purposefully avoid their court hearings.
Most jail detainees seeking release need supervision, monitoring, and a support system that government bureaucracy can’t provide. Texas taxpayers cannot afford to foot the bill for the crimes of others, and would prefer that the accused pay their own way out of trouble.
Counties are beginning to adopt automated risk assessment tools, or computer algorithms used to determine the likelihood of a defendant to fail to appear in court or recommit crimes while out of jail. These tools are riddled with loopholes and biases, and will never have the ability to predict individual human behavior. Some deemed as “low risk” and released by these tools go on to commit more violent crimes. It is more prudent to trust our seasoned judges to keep our communities safe.
- More education and guidelines for Magistrates regarding appropriate bail amounts using appropriate procedures for assessment that will prevent the detainee from committing additional crimes and will safeguard the community
- Developing a reliable and in depth process to determine how much bail the detainee can afford to ensure their appearance in court while not jeopardizing public safety
- Re-Magistrate after 72 hours to determine why the defendant has not made bail
- More rigorous mental health assessments on intake and options for getting these detainees the assistance they need
- Holding Pretrail Release programs more accountable for their high rates of failure to appears and setting higher standards these programs for supervision of defendants.