Law enforcement leaders back bail reform

Law enforcement leaders back bail reform

Local law enforcement leaders are backing a bipartisan proposal to reform the nations’ criminal bail system.

Members of a group called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration sent a letter with 37 signatures to Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSchumer: Dems want DACA fix in government spending bill Overnight Health Care: ObamaCare sign-ups surge in early days Sen. Harris seeks information from maker of opioid treatment MORE (D-Calif.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP senator asks to be taken off Moore fundraising appeals Red state lawmakers find blue state piggy bank Prosecutors tell Paul to expect federal charges against attacker: report MORE (R-Ky.) in support of the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017, which the senators introduced in July.

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The bill authorizes $10 million in Department of Justice grants over a three-year period to incentivize states to replace their money bail systems with individualized, pretrial assessments and release individuals who do not pose a flight risk or a danger to others in the community.

Harris and Paul claim the current system arbitrarily penalizes poor arrestees who can't afford bail. 

Members of the group, which include current and former law enforcement officials, said they know from experience that conditioning freedom on someone’s ability to pay for it does not enhance public safety.

“Under money bail systems, nearly half of violent offenders buy their way into unsupervised release,” said the letter, which included signatures from Kami Chavis, former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Andrew Peralta, the former president of the National Latino Peace Officers Association.

“Too often, those who cannot afford bail are people who were arrested for nonviolent offenses. Thus, we spend taxpayer dollars to keep them behind bars while dangerous individuals quickly return to our streets.” 

The group, led by former New Orleans police superintendent Ronal Serpas, claims there are about 450,000 jail inmates awaiting trial at any given moment, costing taxpayers approximately $38 million per day and $14 billion annually.

Law Enforcement Leaders were vocal advocates during the last Congressional session of failed proposals to reform mandatory minimum prisons sentences and reduce the prison population.

The group is urging Congress to pass the Harris-Paul bill now before the Judiciary Committee.

Harris and Paul are working to build support for the bill, according to Harris's office. The legislation has been backed by dozens of criminal justice reform, law enforcement and conservative groups, including the Justice Action Network and the R Street Institute.