New Bail Law – So far, Not So Good!

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Prison populations in Connecticut have been falling at a considerable rate.

The state’s incarcerated population is on track to drop below 10,000 for the first time in nearly 30 years, a milestone accelerated by the global Coronavirus pandemic. The percentage of arrested defendants going into the prison system has been dropping virtually every month since 2018. The decline in incarceration rate has accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Connecticut in March 2020.

More defendants in Connecticut are being released on their own recognizance. Some released defendants return to committing crimes shortly after being released. Although being released on one’s own recognizance usually comes with certain caveats, the restrictions aren’t as effective as intended.  Among the most abused caveats are GPS ankle bracelets. Law enforcement considers them almost infallible but that is not the case; the public knows it; victims know it and the defendants know it. “Defendants aren’t just cutting off ankle monitors; they’re letting the batteries die”, said a 2019 report from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police in North Carolina.

“It’s a big problem,” Char-Meck Court Watch spokesperson Marcus Philemon said. “The taxpayers are paying the price for it. The criminals know the system now better than their attorneys do.”

In their study period during 2019, 1 in every 4 people wearing an ankle monitor was charged with a violent crime. Of the more than 400 defendants taking part in the program in one month, on a given day, more than 20 of them faced murder charges.

“Most of the time we can simply resolve it with a phone call and say, ‘Hey, your battery’s going dead. You need to charge it,'” he said.  Of course, these devices can only be effective if they’re turned on.

The increasing lack of adherence to using these devices have escalated at a time when bail policies have been becoming more lenient.  This gives people charged with more violent crimes a better chance of being released from jail with electronic monitoring while they await their trials. GPS ankle bracelets have been controversial for years, butwhile they can be a beneficial supplement in many pretrial cases, there remain fundamental flaws which fail victims, those awaiting trial and the wider-public. According to Andrew Bloom of 3-D Bail Bonds in Connecticut listed the issues succinctly –

“GPS monitoring from the victim’s point of view:
The person who assaulted me is let go with guarantee that they will not come near me other than if they do they will be violated next time they appear in court.
Court dates are being continued for a ridiculously long period of time and cases are not moving along.

GPS monitoring from the accused’s point of view:
I have not been found guilty of anything, yet I must wear a tag, like an animal, that allows my every movement to be tracked. If it malfunctions, which many of them do, I will be violated and put back in jail. I must charge it multiple times a day and am told I need to sit perfectly still while charging or the charge will not take.

GPS monitoring from the public’s point of view:
There is a magic police squad dedicated to enforcement of the GPS. If the accused violates the restraining order, these magic police squad will swoop in and arrest the violator prior to them harming or terrorizing the victim. If they tamper with the GPS bracelet, the magic police squad will be able to find them before they take the bracelet off and get away”.

As a victim in Charlotte-Mecklenburg put it: “The system is failing people,” “It’s disheartening. It’s nothing for them to either let their battery die as you see them doing or cut them off.”

If ankle GPS devices and more lenient bail policies are the problem, what is the solution? The solution is what it has always been. A fair and honest cash bail system carried out by licensed bail agents. Cash bail has always been the most fair and effective means for ensuring defendants meet their pre-trial commitments and responsibilities. A movement has taken root recently contending the current cash bail system is unfair to the most vulnerable in the population. They claim cash bail is unaffordable to many. Bloom disagrees. “It’s not a policy issue, it’s an education issue. We have numerous programs to help defendants of any income class”. He adds “The court system is complicated and confusing for many people. We guide our clients through the entire process, so they won’t get in trouble due to inexperience with the system or an oversight caused by other issues people deal with on a daily basis.” Human error, not malicious intent is the most common reason why defendants miss court dates We make sure errors are not the cause our clients are remanded to custody.”.