Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Not even if they roll doubles?

The Lens:
As city leaders debate how much to fund the program meant to reduce the number of pretrial detainees in Orleans Parish Prison, Criminal District Court Judge Julian Parker has handed down an order requiring financial bonds for any defendant set to be tried in his court.

Parker’s order means that every defendant must put up a bond or pay a bail bondsman to get out of jail before trial — including arrestees that the Vera Institute’s pretrial services program rates as low-risk for fleeing or being re-arrested. The only exception is if Parker authorizes it in writing.

The judge’s reasoning, as spelled out in the Oct. 1 order: “There have been several career criminals, dangerous criminals, and/or multiple felony offenders who have been released from custody” on non-financial bonds.
So it's about thinking of the children, or fighting terrorism or something. Or maybe it's just about money.  Specifically, it could be about the money the city budgets for its pre-trial services program which is designed to screen defendants according to flight risk.
The so-called pre-trial services program was created in April with funding from the federal Department of Justice and is run by the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York-based non-profit, with about $200,000 in city funds this year.

Two executives from Vera’s New Orleans office branded the program a success, saying it kept accused non-risk offenders out of the city’s overcrowded prison until they go to trial. That saves the city money, they said.
According to data accompanying today's Lens story, though,  the pre-trial population at Parish Prison has ballooned again in recent months. There's some argument as to why this is happening but it can't help matters that the judges have been asking to defund the pre-trial program in order to bolster the court's own budget. Not to mention their incentive to keep the bail bondsmen busy.
(Councilwoman Susan) Guidry noted that the criminal court receives more than half of a 3 percent fee paid to the sheriff from bail bond underwriters, meaning that judges, like the underwriters, have a financial stake in the bail industry.

“You have to question who is shooting at them, and what their motivation is,” she said.
We keep complaining about the crushing expense as well as the societal costs imposed when we keep locking up more people than we have to.  So why does nearly every arm of our criminal justice system depend on doing just that?

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