Published on The Bell Policy Center (http://bellpolicy.org)
Home > Proposition 102 would create an unjust system
Proposition 102 would create an unjust system
Proposition 102, a ballot initiative designed to limit pretrial services programs for defendants, will come before Colorado voters on Nov. 2.
If passed, many low-income defendants will be denied release on an unsecured bond, leaving them with no option besides awaiting trial in jail. This would unnecessarily drive up costs and crowd local jails with defendants – many of whom will not even be sentenced to jail if convicted.
This initiative has received much of its support from the commercial bail bond industry, which has argued that the initiative will result in fewer tax dollars spent on pretrial services programs, safer communities and a greater guarantee that defendants will appear in court.
What's not said is that the bail bond industry stands to gain from Prop 102 because of the dramatic increase in the number of defendants who must use their services to be released from jail before trial.
Low-income defendants would be disproportionately harmed because they often cannot post bond, and in many cases, it is not profitable for bail bond companies to deal with them. Therefore, we believe Proposition 102 would create an unjust system where poorer defendants would await trial in jail while wealthier defendants would be released on bond for similar crimes.
Currently, many defendants qualify for release to a pretrial services program with an unsecured bond. These programs assess defendants and their cases and make recommendations to the court regarding the defendant's risk to public safety and the likelihood of the defendant appearing in court. The court then uses these recommendations to release defendants deemed low-risk, in some cases providing community-based supervision, drug testing and substance-abuse treatment.
Proposition 102 would rework the bail system, prohibiting the release of a defendant to a pretrial services program on an unsecured bond unless the charge is for a first offense that is a non-violent misdemeanor. The likely outcome would be far more people held in jail awaiting trial, driving up costs for local jails by an estimated $2.8 million a year*, and possibly creating a need for more jail beds.
Opposition to Proposition 102 is just beginning to form and is likely to include representatives of law enforcement, district attorneys, defense attorneys, criminal justice reform organizations and victim advocates.
The Bell Policy Center opposes this proposition. Proponents tout public safety, but we think that is a smokescreen to hide the real intent – to enrich the bail bond industry. The restrictions would harm mostly low-income people, prohibiting them from caring for their families and keeping them from work.
We believe pretrial services programs have worked effectively. They are not broken; they don't need this fix.
* Estimate from Colorado Legislative Council Staff.