Law enforcement officials blast bail reform measures
(excerpt from NH Edge Radio, Sept 28 2019)
“We’ve created a catch-and-release environment where we’re dealing with the same people over and over again. There’s no accountability for anyone anymore because there’s no incentive for anyone to go to court.”
ROCHESTER -- A man arrested on a criminal trespass charge in May and released on his own personal recognizance who then failed to show up for his court date, and then failed to appear for his subsequent court dates after arrests on bench warrants, is an example of the difficulties law enforcement officials say they face under the new bail reform system.
Since Rochester resident Jonathan Candilieri’s original arrest in May on the trespass charge, Rochester police said Candilieri, 36, has been arrested on two bench warrants for failing to appear for his court dates in July and August. He was then charged with bail jumping by police and arrested again this past Thursday. Aside from Candilieri’s trespassing charges, in June he was arrested on a burglary charge and released on another personal recognizance (PR) bail and received a July court date where he again failed to appear, according to police.
“In every community, only a small percentage of people are committing the majority of crimes,” said Rochester Police Chief Paul Toussaint. “We’ve created a catch-and-release environment where we’re dealing with the same people over and over again. There’s no accountability for anyone anymore because there’s no incentive for anyone to go to court.”
Proponents of the bail reform legislation, SB 556, passed in 2018, say elimination of cash bail has prevented indigent suspects from remaining incarcerated for lengthy periods of time before trial, which has halved the detention population in the county jail system, saving counties roughly $2,500 per month per prisoner on average, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire.
However, law enforcement officials serving in a number of capacities throughout the state’s criminal justice system say the bail reform legislation has failed to deliver on its original intention, and instead has fostered an environment where defendants released on personal recognizance, or PR, are skipping court appearances and recidivist offenders are free to commit additional offenses after their release.
Cash bail is traditionally a tool to compel defendants to attend their court appearances or risk forfeiting their bail ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The reformed bail system allows prosecutors to request a judge place a suspect in detention if enough evidence is presented that speaks to a suspect’s level of danger to the community if released on a PR bail. Though law enforcement officials argue judges are interpreting the dangerousness standard too conservatively and are defaulting to PR bails each time someone is arrested.
SB 556 was formulated based on recommendations from a multi-stakeholder legislative bail commission composed of the ACLU, New Hampshire Association of Police Chiefs, public defenders, judges, the Department of Justice and lawmakers. The law had since been amended to allow a judge to consider “all relevant factors bearing on whether the release will endanger the safety of that person or the public” on whether or not to detain a suspect with SB 314 earlier this year.