> Technological solutions, like electronic anklets that monitor an individual’s whereabouts, are another option. Even sending text-message reminders to show up in court makes it more likely that a defendant will do so. All these options are cheaper than incarceration.
I hope this gains popularity. Cash bail discriminates against the poor and is unfairly applied (see article); using technological tracking, check-ins, and similar might be a fairer solution that can be applied uniformly.
I would like to say on a more general note: The influence of money in US criminal justice seems to corrupt everything it touches. From prisons, to parole, to representation, to sentencing, and beyond. Everything we can do to get money's influence out of criminal justice we should do.
The thing is, there's only one county court. If the county court has a program of ankle bracelets and text messages and supervised release and that program doesn't work, there's no incentive for it to change. And there's no alternative for the suspect, either--the judge has final say. With cash bail, there might be a dozen bail bondsmen in the county all in competition, each with the incentive to provide competitive terms to the suspect while guaranteeing their presence at court.
Your proposal sounds like a great way to get excellent bail services for people who have money, but that’s not how the courts are supposed to work.
Sure about that? The way this country is heading is "One dollar = One vote". And once a sector gets accustomed to a stream of cash, there's no way to stop that flow of money.. No matter how dirty that money is.
More fundamentally though, these sorts of "free market" theories tend to assume an unreasonable amount of options and knowledge of potential clients. See: payday loans. Sure, in theory all the details of the loans are pre-agreed, and customers sure do have a lot of options. In practice, the most ethical providers tend not to be the most successful.
If not, and you feel like contributing to the dystopian hellscape we live in: business oppos!
Well, that's something to think about, then. It wouldn't even necessarily just have to be between the suspect and the bondsman; you might also allow judges to allow bail contingent on the suspect wearing a locating device.
Private bail bonds are an almost uniquely US phenomenon. Most other countries either go harsher and keep everyone awaiting trial in jail, or more humane and allow bail on conditions not money. Only America sees it as an opportunity for economic exploitation.
The best way to wither the system would be to speed up court proceedings.
There people always made the point that human judges making just decisions based on fairness. Well, clearly not.
Algorithms would be another, better way to know exactly what makes the determination if a person should be released awaiting trial or not.
Isn't it a source of constant concern that the algorithms that end up being used in law enforcement inevitably end up employing the same stereotypes that their flesh and blood counterparts have?
Look at red lining in real estate/banking. They marked black neighbourhoods with red boxes, white neighbourhoods with green. The bank would approve business and home loans depending on if you were in a red or green area. Algorithmically the banks did not engage in a racist practice but systemically they are.
An algorithm as simple as "mark neighborhoods with high default rates as red, low default rates as green" would probably turn out to be "racist" even if it is also flagging poor white trailer parks with red.
There's no easy way to solve that
I would argue that in some cases it's bloody hard to see that you're doing it yourself.
Examine by who? And would they be trustworthy?
Humans are flawed, and any system made by humans will be flawed. That's just reality. Whether the system is composed of human judges or human built mechanical judges, it will display the same biases of-, and will be vulnerable to the same manipulation by-, humans that exists today. People like cops and DA's will figure out, "Hey! Just feed it the right input, I'll get the output that I want!"
So if you want to switch to digital judges because you want to save some bucks by not having to pay the humans, well that works. But if you are expecting a better system at the aggregated mean, you're likely to be very disagreeably surprised.
I once had the 'pleasure' of working with a Magistrate. She was the most bigoted, opinionated person I've ever worked with. Judges are at best, just like everyone else.
But it's worse for prosecutors: they get evaluated on it. Convicting people is all that matters. And then people complain the prisons are too full ...
If we replaced that metric by "how many years of freedom without serious crimes" did you create in defendants, using punishments ... and using just letting them go ... that would make a world of difference.
People can be reasoned with, appealed to, threatened, or compelled in any number of circumstances, and that is human. Algorithms will simply be gamed and abused by those who control them.
I'm not saying we shouldn't try to address problems with our prisons and courts, etc. But I don't like the general trend in the world to improve fire fighting practices without doing fire prevention while frequently putting out the fire with gasoline, so to speak.
"Fire fighting" gets you hailed as a hero. "Fire prevention" tends to be dismissed as "You didn't really do anything. You just got lucky." Humans are super bad at counting the disasters that didn't happen, but should/would have. So "fire fighting" is more attractive, "sexy" and heroic.
But it's a really sick system that actively creates problems in order to give a few people the role of "hero" on the backs of the many victims of the system. And I would very much like to see less of that.
I'm British; our problems are quite different; but in my mind it's a similar principle.
Something that sticks in my mind is a tendency to focus on "the poor". The sense that there's an undefeatable "poor" by definition. We need "housing for the poor", "jobs for the poor", and so on and so forth.
This article is an example of it. It's basically saying "if you have no money bad things happen to you". Which is mind bendingly, blindingly obvious, in a world in which we've made money _everything_ and in which we've created conditions in which most individuals won't have much or any of it.
A solid example of that sort of firefighting.
What we actually need is for there to be no, or very few, "poor". For society to be less stratified, so that people can actually consider each other neighbours rather than essentially different species living on the same land.
I don't know how to achieve it, but I know that food banks and homeless shelters and "affordable" housing and all of these tweaks are really papering over our inability to just come out and say.. something?
Everyone who is willing to contribute to society gets to share in the wealth of it. I don't know what it looks like, but it doesn't look like the current situation.
There is generally no respect for maintenance and things that last. Same in the corporate world. The people who keep systems running get labeled as "dinosaurs".
My kids were never molested. It was crystal clear in my mind that the single biggest thing I could do to protect them from predators was simply be present. They spent little time in daycare or home alone.
I am often reluctant to talk about that. Stay at home moms are treated like unambitious losers mooching off their gainfully employed husbands. Self proclaimed feminists are routinely really ugly to me and other women like me. Talking about the importance of a parent being there gets decried as being a misogynistic dinosaur advocating for women to be barefoot and pregnant.
I also have been told that my presence at home is not why my sons were never molested. I was merely "lucky" and I'm wrongfully trying to take credit for some random roll of the dice when I didn't actually do a fucking thing.
But I'm quite clear that civilization is mostly nurtured quietly by "thankless jobs" and the celebrated heroes are often a symptom of a failed system, so celebrating them sometimes strikes me as part of the problem, not part of the solution.
My sons understand the things I've done for them and they routinely tell me "You're an awesome mom and I'm so glad you raised me." But the rest of the world is pretty bad about making me feel like a total fucking loser with nothing of value to offer who doesn't deserve an adequate income and should stop whining about being poor.
So it's driven home to me daily that the world terribly undervalues quiet maintenance type work.
I always think about how little the cleaners at a company are paid. In a sense they keep the whole thing running but they get sooo little respect.
I was taking my own trash out of my cubicle every other day because I have a compromised immune system and it makes me too sick to work to leave trash there for two days.
I wonder how much productivity went down because of this one decision without anyone but me seeing any connection whatsoever.
Of all places, HN should know this is true. So many devs hate maintenance to the point of snubbing their noses at anyone who does maintenance. "Oh, he's just a maintenance developer, he can't do what I do." I've actually heard devs say that about another dev. You would think that intelligence would prevent some of that behavior (because they should know better), but I guess not.
I was at a Fire Service training course this last few weekends. And something one of the Fire / Medics said really resonated with me.
"We save lives every day. Not in a heroic way. We just don't think of it:
We give the respiratory distress patient ventilations so they don't go into respiratory, then cardiac, arrest.
We give the overdose patient ventilations so they don't go into respiratory, then cardiac, arrest.
We give the anaphylactic patient epinephrine...
and so on, and so forth.
But we don't look at it as a 'save' unless they get to the brink of death (well, technically death, but still), and we bring them back."
Dehydration can kill you in about two days. We don't treat restaurants as life giving either. We mostly decry them as sources of health problems -- obesity, diabetes, etc.
Feeding people is only life saving if you are feeding famine victims in Africa. It's absolutely not anything important if you are an American stay at home mom cooking from scratch to meet both budgetary and dietary restrictions.
Nope. Such people are obviously a waste of human potential.
From my perspective, people accessing housing, healthcare, etc affordably and consistently has never happened, at least not in the USA. Things are much better now than 100 years ago, at least in terms of the existence of programs to help those in poverty. Before the "great society" programs there was pretty much only family and private/religious charity, otherwise the poor were on their own. Those were the days when you had 2 or three generations living in the same house -- out of necessity, not choice. Maybe medical care wasn't so expensive in those days, but it consisted of a doctor with a few basic instruments in a hand-carried leather bag. Not exactly a big difference-maker most of the time.
We are in crisis in part because those things have changed and a lot of unanticipated collateral damage is not being adequately addressed. We find ourselves needing to pay for services previously provided by relatives while not having any budget for them or real comprehension of what was lost.
You may feel that what was lost was more downside than up, but that doesn't actually refute the fact that our social fabric has changed enormously in the last 100 years and those changes involve collateral damage.
A friend once said to me something like "I'm not trying to make things as good as they were a hundred years ago. I expect better than that. We have so much more knowledge now, I think we shouldn't settle for such a benchmark."
If things were all hunky dory, we wouldn't have articles on HN about the failures of the current system. I agree with the sentiment my friend expressed to the effect that we shouldn't excuse our current failures on the idea that "Well, it used to be worse! So just suck it up and quit your bitching!"
I imagine Natives probably don't feel so positive about the success of the homestead act.
A thing I wrote previously that really opened my eyes to how insidiously Native land and wealth was stolen by homesteaders:
After all, it seemed to work out pretty well for those 19th-century Americans.
Education, strong families, reducing inequality, communities, all do wonders for people more than 'fixing the bail systems'.
Its like endlessly troubleshooting bugs in a software program vs building it properly.
I like the programming analogy. Very apropos for HN.
Again: I'm not suggesting we shouldn't seek to address the problems with this specific system. I'm merely explaining why I think growing the middle class is a meaningful antidote to some of what happens here.
I suspect Bail is an anachronism in these modern times. 100 years ago you could jump on a train and virtually disappear, never be seen again. Now cops can track people's phone to see exactly where they are at any time of the day.
Part of bail is also just to reduce the effort required between the arrest stage and the trial/judgement phase. I think ultimately some kind of monitored release via something like an ankle bracelet (for those at higher risk of trying to run), programs to make it easier for people to remember and make their court dates (text/call reminders and some kind of transit assistance) (for those at low risk of bolting) and just pretrial detention for violoent and dangerous arrestees will provide a cheaper and more just system eventually.
Unfortunately there's a lot of incentives against pretrial release because every time they get it wrong and the person commits another crime while on this release inevitably gets blamed on the system and it's VERY hard to argue the diffuse benefits of all the people who's lives weren't permanently ruined in the face of someone getting hurt.
The miserable life of being on the run might not have been worth the original threat being faced, but, regrettably, it may be worth the original threat + the new threat.
That's why every so often governments will have amnesty-like programs where you are able to turn yourself in with no extra consequences if you have a warrant. Or, for that matter, register for citizenship or legal status without fear of facing the legal consequences for the original illegal entry or overstay of visa.
Though I get your point is more about crimes that would, well, be worth trying to disappear over, still worth pointing out that you can effectively "disappear" across state/country lines depending on the severity of your crime.
The bail bondsman actually provides another service to the court: he has the legal power and financial incentive to apprehend a suspect and return them to the custody of the court if you skip bail. In other words, instead of the county sheriff having to worry about apprehending everyone who skips bail, they effectively outsource it to the bail bondsman. The bail bondsman thus has an incentive to make sure you don't skip bail, or failing that, to make sure that he can apprehend you--and these risks are priced into the effective rate of interest on the bail bond. (Most "bounty hunters" in the US are just bail bondsmen trying to recover their suspect, or somebody working for or contracted by the same.)
It's a fairly underrated and underappreciated market mechanism where the entire problem of "making sure people show up to court if they are on trial" can be handled by a competitive market, usually more efficiently or humanely than most local governments would do themselves. But it involves money changing hands, which gets certain people all up in a lather about abolishing it.
That's not the reason. The problem is that it requires innocent poor people to pay for the amortized cost of apprehending the guilty absconders, while rich innocent people do not need to pay anything (since they have the funds and will get their money back).
The idea that the US and the Phillipines, the two countries where bail is dominated by commercial bail bondsman, handle this matter more humanely than the rest of the world is, at best, not obviously correct and could use some support.
Given that many other countries don't have bail bonds at all, would you care to demonstrate how they're less humane in practice by citing some examples?
Furthermore, many of those are democratic countries. If their arrangements are worse off, you'd expect some people - even if it's a small minority - to make note of that, and advocate to reform the system to be more like US. Are there any examples of that?
I don’t think many people even in the US understand the commercial bail bond system, and many people only learn about it from biased sources advocating to repeal it. It is a bit of a legal idiosyncrasy particular to the US.
If you're found innocent is the bail fee rescinded?
The state ought to compensate a defendant for reasonable costs after a false accusation, at least as long as public defenders are infamously understaffed.
The bond is secured by your person--i.e. if the bondsman can apprehend you and take you to county jail, he gets his money back--but it's expensive and risky to do that.
If you're considered a low flight risk, you could be released under your own recognizance or released at a low enough level of bail that you can afford to pay the bondsman's rate. If you're considered a very high flight risk, you stay in jail. Cash bail is for the cases in the middle, and if you either abolish it or replace it with something less effective or efficient, more people will be considered "high risk" and denied bail.
If you can't afford to pay a bail bondsman, that means that the court has deemed you a high enough flight risk to require a high amount of bail, and it also means that every bail bondsman you meet also deems you a high enough risk that you don't get an affordable rate on the bail. By definition, that's a situation where literally nobody actually thinks you're actually going to show up to court of your own free will, and in that situation, there's no solution that keeps you out of jail.
Make the police and courts fully fund their externalities, period. Private companies can still compete for the responsibility of keeping tabs on and apprehending fugitives, but the state should be paying the fee.
Right now the damages caused by police are effectively paid by an absurd reverse-lottery where the unlucky victims have to bear the costs of their own false imprisonment. There is little incentive for the police to not overzealously arrest and hold people, because it gets accounted for as effectiveness rather than the waste that it is. This has been so institutionalized that police even use it as an illegitimate punishment - eg "you can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride". This is not the rule of law, nor justice.
You're not forced to use a bondsman, only if you cannot put together bail yourself. There's a decent argument that bails which require a bondsman violate the constitutional prohibition on excessive bails, but I don't know if that's been adjudicated.
Regardless, the judicial system is not charging you a fee.
John Arnold started as a non profit foundation, after deceiving cities to use their “Machine Learning”, they incorporated as an LLC anticipating profits using good unsuspecting judges as pawns.
After selling his Artificial Intelligence Tool to Washington D.C. there has been a 227% surge in crimes.
“We have witnessed the tragic impact that a climate of hate and division can cause. The FBI report highlights how communities across DC must continue to confront intolerance and bigotry, and continue to work together to build and maintain an inclusive and welcoming city” – Anti-Defamation League
The NAACP, ACLU, MIT and 100 other organizations panicking as John Arnold pushes his racist and secret machine learning algorithm to decide who goes to jail, “More than 100 civil rights and community-based organizations, signed a statement urging against the use of risk assessment.”
Criminal Justice is a human element, that needs to focus on humans deciding who goes to jail while we address real issues such as Community Development and Prison Reform. https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/justice-and-prison-reform/pri...
It would behoove us all to think about the consequences of the algorithms we're working on - much like this article.
That could be, at least in part, due to inability to post bail being correlated with actually, like, being guilty.
That and being unsophisticated and without a lawyer.
> The implications of the two studies are powerful and troubling. Being behind bars while awaiting trial had profound negative repercussions, and they were borne disproportionately by low-income people and by black people.
For pete's sake, and the umpteenth time, correlation doesn't imply cause and effect.
The detained arrestee was more likely to appear in court for his trial.
But he was also more likely to be convicted."
The Judge knew what he was doing in setting a higher bail for the one who was convicted.
This whole narrative hinges on the study authors knowing more than the Judge what a proper level of bail is - despite not actually being there.
The problem with lowering the maximum rate is that this would put high-risk suspects in jail since they wouldn't even have the choice of making bail. Which is the same problem with abolishing cash bail. With cash bail, if someone's a higher risk, the judge can set a higher level of bail in case there's a bondsman willing to stick his neck out for him.
Correlation vs causation, yadda yadda
Doesn't seem particularly reasonable to not incarcerate anyone before trial.
The vast majority of people on bail aren't mass murderers or armed robbers, they're petty criminals and drug addicts. If you think a shoplifter might reoffend while on bail, then make his bail conditional on staying away from the local mall. If you think a domestic abuser might reoffend while on bail, then make his bail conditional on having no contact with his spouse. If you think that someone might abscond, then make his bail conditional on GPS tagging or regularly signing on at a police station.
Bail conditions (with suitable monitoring) are fairer and more effective than cash bail.
The purpose of cash bail is to make sure the suspect shows up to court. Which--sure, can be replaced with monitoring, and then instead of having a bail bondsman pick up bail-jumpers at zero cost to the taxpayer, the taxpayer can pay the sheriff's department to round up bail-jumpers instead.
On the one hand, if we're gonna do surgery on someone to surveil them hopefully it would be reserved for people actually convicted of a violent crime. On the other hand, I'd very possibly want the surgery myself if I thought the alternative was spending months in jail awaiting trial.
I'm not in the medical field but I'm sure there's many places such as "closish" to an artery that trained doctors would have no issues getting at but a random joe with a switch blade may have issues with. I'd figure just detecting the temperature change and alerting the authorities would be easier though, then you can place it just like a standard animal tracker, e.g. a needle in their arm/back.
I doubt that being close would deter, it would just lead to more desperate people committing a form of suicide for freedom.