AMAC Exclusive – By Katie Sullivan
While most Democrats have now nominally abandoned their prior support for the “Defund the Police” movement as a crime wave sweeps the nation, they nonetheless continue to support other radical aspects of the left-wing agenda to dismantle the criminal justice system. Of the many Democrat policies wreaking havoc on American communities, getting rid of cash bail has been perhaps the most destructive. But with voters demanding change to address the violence in their neighborhoods, Democrats who paved the way for the release of criminals back onto the street under the banner of so-called “bail reform” may once again find themselves at odds with voters this fall.
In wake of riots that gripped the country in the summer of 2020, left-wing politicians and activists began demanding that states and localities dramatically weaken or do away entirely with their bail laws – the system that allows most suspects arrested for a criminal offense to be freed pending trial in exchange for the defendant putting up cash collateral or a bail bond. If the defendant shows up for all the court dates, the cash is returned. If the defendant fails to appear, the cash is forfeited to the court.
The practical result of Democrat efforts to lower or eliminate cash bail requirements has been that in many jurisdictions, criminal suspects are now released soon after they are arrested and sent back into the community with little or no financial incentive to show up in court as well as little or no financial disincentive to commit more crimes.
In many jurisdictions where elected leaders have so far refused to change their laws, groups like the Minnesota Freedom Fund – which enjoys the support of Vice President Kamala Harris – began posting bail for those held pre-trial regardless of the crimes they committed.
The result of weakening and doing away with the defendant’s obligation to post cash bail has been an unsurprising spike in both overall crime rates and crimes committed by repeat offenders. In New York, for example, which ended cash bail for most offenses in 2019, there has been a 36% increase in crime over the past two years, following a 76% reduction in crime from 1997-2020. Under the 2019 law, arson, robbery, burglary, and, ironically, bail jumping were among the crimes deemed “nonviolent” and required the immediate release of those charged with these crimes.
In one of the most high-profile consequences of this policy, earlier this year New York Republican gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin was attacked on stage at a rally while speaking in Perinton, New York. Just hours later, Zeldin’s attacker was released without bail. Dozens of other criminals in New York have also been allowed to continue terrorizing law-abiding citizens. Incredibly, many of them even openly cite the state’s lax bail laws as a motivation for continuing their crime sprees.
New York state is unique in that, according to the law, judges cannot consider public safety when issuing rulings on bail and must release any offender “on the least restrictive alternative and condition or conditions that will reasonably assure the principal’s return to court”. In Nassau County, New York, this policy meant that 87.5% of all those arrested in a 3-month period between April and June 2022 – almost 3,000 criminals – were back on the street shortly after their arrest, many with multiple felony charges.
There are growing signs, however, that Democrats’ embrace of this radical “reform” agenda is beginning to crack their support even in deep blue states like New York. According to a poll released by the Trafalgar Group earlier this month, Republican Attorney General nominee Michael Henry – who has pledged to reverse course on bond “reform” – is leading far-left incumbent Democrat Letitia James 44%-43%. If Henry manages to pull off this stunning upset, it will no doubt be in large part to New Yorkers’ disdain for left-wing criminal justice policies.
In California – no bastion of conservatism – voters already rejected a bill effectively abolishing cash bail which passed in 2018. In the vote on California Proposition 25 in 2020, 56% of voters chose to repeal Senate Bill 10, thus keeping in place the use of cash bail for detained suspects. However, Democrats in the state legislature are openly defying the will of the people, and have introduced another “zero bail” bill that would effectively reverse the outcome of a statewide vote against the policy.
According to the District Attorney in Yolo County, California, while the state-imposed zero bail policy was in place, there were 595 people released who otherwise would have been held on bail. Of those 595 people, 420 were arrested again, 123 of them for violent crimes ranging from murder to kidnapping, armed robbery, and domestic violence. In cities such as Los Angeles, where radical prosecutors like George Gascon not only refuse to hold most criminals on bail, but also refuse to prosecute them, individuals who should be behind bars have gone on to murder police officers, rape teenage girls, and rob stores.
Just up the coast in San Francisco, voter backlash to similar policies has already ousted far-left prosecutor Chesa Boudin. Though Gascon survived his own recall attempt, others are sure to follow, and voters are similarly pursuing recalls against dozens of other left-wing prosecutors throughout the country.
According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 69% of Americans rate crime as “highly important” to them in making their midterm decision. Of that percentage, Republicans have a 14-point advantage in voter trust. While their support for the “Defund the Police” movement dragged down Democrats in 2020, their embrace of releasing criminal suspects without requiring bail may prove even more costly this time around.
Katharine “Katie” Sullivan was as an Acting Assistant Attorney General and a senior advisor to the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Trump. She previously served 11 years as a state trial court judge in Colorado.