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Don Mescia and Sheri Davis: Bail system protects the state, citizens and the accused



For the Monitor
Saturday, June 02, 2018

In response to Concord attorney Michael Lewis’s recent opinion column “Unpacking the county attorneys’ belated position on bail reform” (Monitor Forum, May 24): The competency of his argument is “charitably” not relevant.

Lewis uses recent staffing changes within the Attorney General’s Office to throw doubt on the professional opinion of 10 county attorneys, while never refuting a singular point of their argument against the new bill eliminating bail, which can include both cash and surety bonds. Instead, he relies on bullying rhetoric to cast aspersions upon their character, and completely ignoring concerns expressed by county attorneys that the bill places undue pressure on victims.

In a rush to paint their arguments as “dehumanizing,” the piece ignores states such as New Mexico that have instituted similar reforms, only to regret it. Last month, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez warned Utah voters about the “devastating results” of a similar policy, calling the failed experiment an aggravation to “catch and release, revolving door justice system(s).”

Supporters of the bill claim massive savings from reducing pretrial incarceration; however, their position fails to account for what United Bail of America estimates as over $120 million in pretrial service costs that would become the responsibility of taxpayers.

Surety agents, like those who are members of UBA, offer a series of pretrial services to defendants at a lower cost than government-funded programs, including counsel on the conditions of bond, help finding employment, relocation, drug testing and review of defendant conduct while on bail. Personal interviews with potential clients ensure our agents have a financial interest in the successful behavior and appearance of their clients in court.

In addition, failure-to-appear rates have skyrocketed 40 percent in some jurisdictions that have passed similar bail reform acts, leaving unaccounted-for defendants in communities and exhausting police resources.

In the past few weeks alone, courts acting under the New Jersey Bail Reform Act of 2017 have released a man accused of dealing altered drugs to middle schoolers; a man with multiple outstanding warrants who made “terroristic threats”; and a high school teacher with 11 outstanding warrants who was found in his car with a female student, drugs, sex toys and a weapon.

Do we really want these defendants roaming the streets of our communities without the consequences that come from skipping bail or failing in the conditions of their release?

The heart of the criminal justice system is in its name – justice. Justice is best served when the accused obey the conditions of bail, show up for trial and are found innocent or guilty by a judge or jury.

We stand with the 10 county attorneys who seek true justice.

The bail system protects the state by keeping the burden of funding pretrial services off the backs of taxpayers; protects citizens by making sure the accused comply with conditions of bail; and protects the accused by providing counsel and support during what can be a confusing and trying time.

(Don Mescia is the executive director of United Bail of America. Sheri Davis is president of Bailn’-U Bail Bonds in Plaistow.)