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Another View -- Don Mescia and Sheri Davis: NH should learn from bail reform failures in other states

By DON MESCIA and SHERI DAVIS
June 11. 2018 9:25PM




We would agree with a recent Union Leader editorial on bail requirements that stated the county prosecutors’ concerns do “warrant close inspection.”

These professionals recognize what happened in states, like New Mexico and Iowa, that instituted similar cash-bail reforms, only to regret it. In fact, 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 (UBA) estimates as more than $120 million in pretrial service costs that would become the responsibility of New Hampshire 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.

This should be enough evidence to understand why the county prosecutors are hesitant to support SB 556 and make New Hampshire residents critical of the bill as well.

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 executive director of United Bail of America. Sheri Davis is president of Bailin’-U Bail Bonds Inc.


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