Criminal Justice Reform Considered In Virginia
Article from Reason by Scott Shackford.
Virginia’s attorney general is looking to join the movement to reform the cash bail system in order to cease stockpiling poor people behind bars before their cases go to court.
Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring announced this week that he’s calling for reforms to Virginia’s pretrial systems. Herring wants to keep people who are dangerous, or flight risks, behind bars; but he thinks courts should stop using money to determine who gets to go free before trial.
The Virginia State Crime Commission is studying the state’s pretrial processes this year and will be presenting its report on Nov. 8. Herring sent the commission a letter encouraging it to take a closer look at how Virginia judges set bail for defendants. He notes that “[t]he widespread practice of detaining low-risk indigent defendants before trial has become very concerning, even raising potential constitutional concerns, and pretrial detention may have become the norm rather than the last resort in too many cases involving nonviolent, low-risk offenders.”
The stats show Virginia’s pretrial population has ballooned from 3,000 to 9,000 over the course of three decades, and nearly half the people in Virginia’s jails are there awaiting trial, not serving criminal sentences. Not all of those people there because they pose a risk to the community; many folks are stuck entirely because they don’t have the money to cover their bail. Using money as a criterion for freedom keeps people from working, and data shows they’re likely to receive harsher sentences, or accept unpleasant plea agreements, because it’s difficult to negotiate from behind bars.
Read the entire article at Reason.
Image Credit: By Tony Webster [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons