Thank you Chair Collier, Vice Chair Zedler and the honorable members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee for taking the time to consider my testimony. The work you do on criminal justice issues is critical. And for me, it is personal.
Almost exactly two years ago, I was enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon in New Jersey when my life was forever changed. On April 9, 2017, my son Christian, at only 26 years old, was shot over 22 times and killed in a drive-by. His killer was a convicted felon who was in jail only days before for illegally possessing a weapon. He had also been previously arrested over two dozen times for things like burglary, resisting arrest, drug offenses and more.
You might be wondering why such a dangerous criminal was out on the streets in the first place. The answer, although troublesome, is simple. He was out as a direct result of New Jersey’s bail reforms, which allowed him to be released without bail and without supervision, free to roam the streets, where he robbed my son of his life.
Since then, I decided I could not stand idly by while the State of New Jersey put the safety of families like mine on the back burner. I sued Gov. Chris Christie over this atrocious bail reform law. And it’s why I feel compelled to weigh in on House Bill 1323, to warn others about the dangers of going down this road. The State of Texas should strongly consider the dangerous consequences of bail reform in other states.
Risk assessment tools like the ones used in New Jersey and in House Bill 1323 create virtual revolving doors in jails, with criminals often being released a few hours after their arrest. New Jersey eliminated its bail system in early 2017, leaving the fate of defendants largely in the hands of an algorithm.
Risk assessment tools will never be able to definitively predict human behavior. Unfortunately, the tool mistakenly deemed my son’s killer as a low risk to society, and he was released.
We can’t automate our criminal justice system—it takes involvement from family, a support system, counseling, and yes, sometimes time in jail to break the cycle of crime. Without this support system there is nothing holding defendants accountable for their actions.
Bail reform treats perpetrators as victims, rather than respecting the rights of true victims of these crimes. Sometimes I think if bail reform had never been passed, my son might still be here today. Unless states get smart on crime, who knows how many other lives will be tragically lost.
I urge you, please don’t leave the fate of more families in the hands of a faceless computer program. Please vote against this bill. Thank you.
Victims’ Outreach Coordinator
Texas Alliance for Safe Communities
1350 CR 262
Georgetown, TX 78633