After only a few months of bail reform, several sponsors of Alaska’s “catch and release” bill, SB 91, moved to roll back it’s most controversial feature: a mandatory computer-generated algorithm that chooses who must be released without cash bail before trial.
The mandatory system relied on 6 data points to determine if a person was a low, medium, or high-risk for failure to appear for their court date and how likely the defendant was to commit another crime while out on a no-cash bail before their trial. The decision to release a defendant on bail was completely taken out of the hands of judges.
Alaska’s “Catch and Release” Bail Reform Gave Criminals a Get Out of Jail Free Card
Jessica Malcolm was arrested with a gun following a shootout. The algorithm scored her with a zero, so she was released the next day and promptly fled the state.
Shane Muse, a suspected car thief, scored a two with the algorithm and qualified for mandatory “catch and release”. He immediately went on the run and didn’t show up to court for a forgery trial.
Alaska was the first state to implement a mandatory catch-and-release system in 2016 and the bail reform algorithm quickly created dire public safety consequences. One of the bill’s original sponsors, Mia Costello (R-Anchorage) led the charge to repeal several parts of the bill. Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed HB 312 in June which now allows judges to consider out-of-state criminal history and removes mandatory “catch and release”, returning these critical decisions back to the judges where it belongs.
The results of recent survey of judges by The National Judicial College reported that 69% of judges don’t want the money bail system to be abolished. Judges understand better than anyone that bail bondsman play an important role in the criminal justice system by requiring cash bail and keeping track of defendants to make sure they show up in court.