Bail-setting tool flawed, often ignored in New Orleans, watchdog group finds
(excerpt from 4WWL - July 1 2019)
“This instrument is flawed. I think it is a gimmick and it needs to be revised,” the Metropolitan Crime Commission president said.
NEW ORLEANS — About one-third of suspects booked with violent felony crimes in New Orleans are deemed low-risk to re-offend or miss court in a risk assessment survey used by the court to determine bail, but those assessments are often ignored by the magistrates setting bail, according to a report issued Monday by a watchdog group.
The report by the Metropolitan Crime Commission studied nine months of bail settings and found that 38 percent of rape suspects and 29 percent of murder suspects were given risk scores of 1 on a 1-to-5 scale, recommending them for an unsupervised release while awaiting trial.
“This is called a public safety assessment tool, but it is more about trying to drive down the pre-trial jail population than it is taking into consideration the risk that the offender poses to the community,” said MCC President Rafael Goyeneche.
The report was prompted by the recent case in which two armed robbers held up the CVS Pharmacy on Prytania Street, tying up two employees, then engaging in a shootout with police in which one officer was wounded in the shoulder. The suspects also were wounded in the gun battle.
The risk score for the suspects, Alan Parson, 18, and Richard Sansbury, 26,was calculated as a 1, although a magistrate commissioner ignored the low ratings and set bail for each defendant at more than $1 million.
“To see them rated a risk level 1 is, I think, a travesty and an insult to the officers that bravely protected and served the community, one of them almost lost their life,” Goyeneche said. “This instrument is flawed. I think it is a gimmick and it needs to be revised.”