New Hampshire is yet another example of a state witnessing the devastating effects of California/New Jersey-style bail reform and taking action to stop it
The Texas Alliance for Safe Communities is today continuing their series of releases outlining knee-jerk, California/New Jersey-style bail reform efforts in other states that have failed, been rolled back or repealed, or undermined the criminal justice system in a way that adversely affects community safety and the rights of crime victims.
Over the past several years, a movement to overhaul state bail systems has spread across the United States, leading cities, counties and states to pass legislation that rids criminal justice systems of commercial bail and implement risk assessment tools in its place. This practice has led to a massive increase in defendants being released on their own recognizance, with many later failing to appear for their scheduled court hearing. The pitfalls of such reforms are plenty, and research shows that many states are beginning to witness the devastating consequences of bail reform on public safety and reversing course.
Last week, the Texas Alliance for Safe Communities outlined the pitfalls of these criminal justice reforms in the states of Alaska, California and New Mexico.
Today, TASC shares the story in New Hampshire:
Earlier this year, New Hampshire Governor John Sununu signed into law Senate Bill 556, legislation that overhauled the bail system by allowing most criminal defendants to be released from jail on their own personal recognizance. The legislation went into effect in September 2018 despite widespread criticism from New Hampshire county attorneys and other law enforcement officials who warned the legislative body that the new law could put the safety of the public at risk by allowing dangerous defendants to be released onto the streets. The President of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police wrote:
- “These groups are pushing what may well be failed experiments in other states before the effectiveness of those changes are known. They often cite their own studies of their own work or groups financially tied to them to support their agenda. Almost all of this discussion is focused on the defendant with scant attention to the victims. They talk about the cost of incarceration but not the cost to victims and society. There is talk of the impact on the defendant being held, but not a word on the lifelong impact on victims.” (Fosters, 6/26/18)
The law has only been in effect for one month, and law enforcement officials are already voicing concerns about the consequences of the legislation.
- “The Legislature provided no guidance or resources to the justice system when it passed the bill earlier this year. Police chiefs said they’re seeing some bail hearings turn into mini-trials, keeping officers off the streets. ‘It seems like all of the sudden we’re having hearings we didn’t have before, and that’s the concern,’ said Andrew Shagoury of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police.” (WMUR, 10/19/18)
New Hampshire has consistently been rated one of the safest states in the country, yet that distinction hangs in balance as efforts to overhaul the bail system put their public safety at risk.
When it comes to trying out unproven bail reforms, other states have done the dirty work. The State of Texas should heed the warnings of other states before moving to completely overhaul our justice system, leading to potentially dangerous side effects.