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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Local Citizens Speak At Monday's CCJB Meeting

Some citizens attending Monday's meeting (photo courtesy DNR)
For the first time, our local Community Criminal Justice Board allowed time for public comment on an issue more and more people are concerned about, the human toll of overincarceration. Our jail numbers have increased by 500% in the past 20 years, while our population has grown only 25% during that time.

One of the respondents in the public comment time, Noel Levan, cited numbers from a recent study published by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. Read the full report here. An excerpt follows:

Unnecessarily detaining defendants in jail before trial has a significant negative impact on the defendant, and often on public safety, including:

• Harsher Punishment: Research found that defendants detained for the entire period before trial were more than four times more likely to be sentenced to jail and more than three times more likely to be sentenced to prison compared to released defendants. Defendants jailed before trial also received jail sentences three times longer and prison sentences twice as long as those released.47 Those detained before trial are also more likely to plead guilty.

• Increased Likelihood of Recidivism: Even short periods of pretrial detention for low-risk defendants can compromise public safety. Low-risk defendants are defined as “individuals who can be released with little or no supervisory conditions with reasonable assurances that they will appear in court and will not threaten community safety.”

A 2013 study — which examined 153,000 defendants jailed in Kentucky between 2009 and 2010 — found that low-risk defendants held for two-three days were almost 40 percent more likely to commit new crimes before trial compared to defendants released within 24 hours. When held for 8-14 days, defendants were 51 percent more likely to commit another crime compared to defendants released within 24 hours.

• Socio-economic Consequences: Studies have shown that jail detention between arrest and dismissal or conviction can lead to the loss of employment, housing, or even medical coverage.51 20 | Brennan Center for Justice Research confirms that racial disparities exist in the use of pretrial detention. For example:

• A 2012 study found thatAfricanAmerican and Hispanic defendants were more likely to be detained pending trial, less likely to be able to afford their bail (which was assessed at higher amounts), and less likely to be granted release in comparison to similarly situated white defendants.

• A 2013 study by the Vera Institute found race and ethnicity a predictive factor in determining whether defendants were detained or released at arraignment. These disparities were most extreme for misdemeanor offenses, where African Americans were 20 percent more likely than whites to be detained before trial.53 • A study for the Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that African American defendants were 66 percent more likely to be detained before trial and Hispanic defendants 91 percent more likely to be detained, in comparison to white defendants. Hispanics were also 39 percent more likely to be charged a bail amount in exchange for pretrial release — and were required to pay higher amounts.5
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