Repairing our Bail Bond System
Fighting mass incarceration includes repairing our Dallas County bail bond system. Why? Because it is needlessly unfair to people of color and the poor and because it costs us too many taxpayer dollars by inflating our jail population.
Today, our bail bond system is based on ability to pay. When a person is arrested, bail may be set and a person who can afford to pay bail is released to appear in court. A person who cannot afford bail is put into pretrial detention - the county jail - where Dallas County taxpayers foot the bill.
It happens all the time. Two different people are arrested for a similar crime. One goes free because they can afford bail. The other goes to jail because they cannot. The ramifications for the person who cannot afford bail typically spiral out of control. They cannot go to work. They cannot care for their family or children. They may go into more debt, or lose their car or home. All of this happens to them regardless of the chances they will not appear in court or repeat an offense. You pay the large bill for their time in jail regardless of whether they pose any risk to the community.
There's a better way: RISK ASSESSMENT
In recent years, many criminal justice professionals, non-profit groups, and academic researchers have rigorously studied factors that can be used to evaluate the risk that a person will skip bail or commit a new crime. Risk assessment tools give us an objective way to make decisions about bail, including the possibility of releasing on their own recognizance those who have very low chance of not appearing in court or committing a new crime. When we use risk assessment, we can focus our tax dollars on jailing only those who may flee or commit a new crime. Risk assessment tools can help us reduce jail populations and attendant costs, keep families intact, help the poor maintain employment, and ensure a higher rate of return to court.
As your next District Attorney, I plan to work with our judges, our commissioners, as well as the private bond industry, to implement rational changes to our outdated bond system. I strongly believe that we can make improvements that will keep our community safer, treat people more fairly, and lower our jail costs.
Democratic Nominee for Dallas County District Attorney