Chair Collier, Vice Chair Zedler and the honorable members of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, thank you for considering this testimony for House Bill 3283.
We can all agree that certain criminal justice reforms are needed to address some of the challenges of administering justice fairly and efficiently, however, we should also keep in mind that a criminal justice system that elevates criminal defendants over considerations of victims and public safety is no criminal justice system at all.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck the right balance in a recent ruling regarding bail in our criminal justice system. The court found that Texas’ bail system was constitutional and outlined specific procedures to keep victims, law enforcement and the public safe within its existing framework, while ensuring criminal defendants are afforded the appropriate rights and considerations.
Importantly, the Fifth Circuit did not mandate the use of any pretrial risk assessment tools or unsupervised release policies. This is critical because those tools create a revolving door that allows criminals to continue to terrorize their victims and our communities, and in many cases evade court dates and responsibility for their actions. They completely ignore the fact that many who are arrested require supervision, monitoring, and a support system to ensure they will appear for future court dates and won’t slip into a pattern of future crimes.
I speak with victims’ families on a daily basis. I know firsthand that victims of crime need assurance that their abusers will be held accountable in court. Victims of sexual assault, more than other crime victims, are often too afraid to come forward. They are unable to speak up about something so very personal and horrific. When victims do come forward, their courage is eviscerated when defendants are released—without consequence—into the community. Their courage is further exasperated when the defendant fails to appear for court. And yet made even worse if the defendant commits another crime.
Put yourself in a victim’s shoes and imagine living in a world where your offender is out of jail, roaming the streets with absolutely no culpability and little supervision from law enforcement. Imagine that this happened because your state passed policies that allow this criminal to roam free, despite ample proof that those policies have had disastrous consequences across the country.
Victims deserve safety and justice. I believe House Bill 3283 achieves that and is the right way forward for Texas. I urge you to support this important bill.
Texas Alliance for Safe Communities
1350 CR 262
Georgetown, TX 78633