Indiana police had to chase down a car thief in a high-speed pursuit for the third time in two months Thursday after the state’s bail laws allowed the man to leave prison at virtually no cost.
Indiana law allows some defendants to have their bail set before their case can be reviewed by a judge, sometimes allowing repeat offenders like Donald Williams to slip through the cracks, Fox 59 reported. Police first arrested Williams in January following a high-speed pursuit in a stolen car. He posted a $500 bail and engaged in another pursuit four days later after evading a traffic stop, a routine he repeated Thursday night.
“It’s catch and release criminal justice, that is the problem,” said Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder. “Our police officers as these reports show are faithfully chasing down the bad guys and getting them locked up, but it’s the criminal justice system that is failing. It truly is a revolving door.”
States across the country have been reforming bail laws to make it less expensive for offenders to get out of jail before trial. Advocates say the practice relieves huge strain on the prison system and saves taxpayer money by not having to pay for a defendant to sleep and eat in jail ahead of his trial.
Critics like the FOP claim it’s only making it easier for criminals to escape punishment and get back onto the streets.
“Those who are responsible for dispensing justice are letting him right back out,” said Snyder. “It’s the infrastructure of our criminal justice that is failing police and the community at large.”
The bail reform advocates at the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) argue the nation should follow the example of states like New Jersey, which abolished the practice almost completely in 2017 and implemented a risk assessment tool to release defendants without payment instead. But Palmetto Surety, a South Carolina-based bail bond company, argues that reforms in New Jersey and elsewhere have been too radical and were enacted too quickly.
Many state police – including the FOP – agree with the sentiment. Five months into 2017, the risk assessment released Douglas Baudriz-Diaz, an illegal immigrant arrested for burglary. He then robbed another home and was arrested while in the process of robbing a third. Police argued he should never have left jail.
“With the old bail guidelines, he would have been held in the [corrections center] with a bail between $10,000-$50,000 due to the degree of his charges,” the South Plainfield Police Department wrote in a statement, going on to call the release “unfortunate.”
New Jersey’s assessment tool doesn’t take into account a defendant’s race, ethnicity, or immigration status.
“There should be bail reform, but not everyone should be entitled to an algorithm release,” Mescia said. “Many of these have committed heinous crimes like drug and gun offenses.”
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