Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel Claims Outrage Over the Very Get Out of Jail Free Policies She Is Advocating to Expand
Attorney General Dana Nessel attended a press conference on Wednesday, March 17, 2019, where she endorsed a bail reform package of bills spearheaded by Representative David LaGrande. The intent of the legislation was to fix Michigan’s “broken cash bail system,” in other words the system where people might be required to post bond to secure their release from jail. Instead, LaGrande indicated the intent of the package was to “allow someone to make a pretrial release on a personal recognizance bond, rather than a cash bond.” Attorney General Nessel called the package of bills a “win win,” and enthusiastically supported the legislation at the press conference noting that the savings from having fewer people in jail would be quite large and was a key benefit of the package.
In fact, supporters of the bail reform bill indicated that they believed the bill package would result in “diverting the majority of cases away from cash bail to personal recognizance.” This is obvious from the package—the language contained in the bill package was lifted from New Jersey’s statute which eliminated monetary bail. This package is designed to create a “right to an affordable bail” in Michigan, meaning if you didn’t post a bond a judge decided was necessary, you walk out on a get-of-jail-free card called a personal recognizance or unsecured bond. Supporters say the package eliminates the concept of “pay or stay.” While the Attorney General will say she is for releasing those who are not a danger to the public or a flight risk, the problem is that this is precisely the standard judges are looking at when they impose a bond in the first place. So, how many bonds is the AG contending are currently set in violation of state and/or federal law?
Enter a widespread clergy child sexual abuse scandal to remind Attorney General Nessel of reality. She recently expressed outrage that some of the members of the clergy have been released at all pending trial. In fact, they are being released on personal bonds, secured with no money or in one case by a promise to pay if you flee. Think about that—a promise to pay a forfeiture if you flee. Another got an ankle monitor. AG Nessel then questioned whether they were getting special treatment because they were priests, but then later told WOODTV that this was a trend currently happening in the Detroit area.
“I will say that we’re seeing a pattern of personal bonds being granted in very serious cases where it has not been my experience that I’ve seen personal bonds on those kinds of cases.” – AG Dana Nessel
So, which side is she on? That is hard to say. What we do know is that Alaska just reversed the very reforms Michigan is considering after falling for the belief that we can somehow wave a magic wand using a risk assessment tool and determine if a defendant is not a danger or flight risk. In Alaska, these reforms have been “blamed for fostering a crime wave in Alaska.” Will the AG stick to politics and wealthy donors like George Soros who wants to “end money bail,” or will she stick to the model of judicial discretion we have now and advocate for higher bonds in appropriate “serious” cases which has been law that has existed on this continent for centuries.
Of course, as WXYZ reported we are in “one of the deadliest months in recent memory” in Detroit, citing a judge who released three defendants accused of attempted murder on $500 bonds. $500! We wonder where Attorney General Nessel is on all of this—are these the people that should get a $500 bond? Should they get a LaGrand-Nessel free bond? Is advocating for catch-and-release bail policies what is your office doing to protect the victims? You said in your campaign: “The AG's job is to protect Michigan citizens against the individuals & corporations that would do them harm, not the other way around.” You feel ok with a $500 bond where a gunman shot a victim in the neck, and you are going to go to Lansing to advocate for more of it?
Finally, on the issue of risk assessment tools to determine pretrial releases (as opposed to a judge). What if the Supreme Court’s pretrial risk assessment algorithm, the Arnold Foundation PSA, counts 93% of felony weapons charges as low risk like they did in New Orleans. Does the AG want to litigate against John Arnold’s computer and disprove it
We think the people of Michigan and elected officials need an answer from the Attorney General as to why she is supporting the expansion of policies that she is claiming she is against, especially when these policies themselves are the very political movements being funded by wealthy billionaires that she purported to be against.
It’s time to call her and ask for answers.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: 517-335-7622, firstname.lastname@example.org