Criminal Justice

Texas Senate Passes Bill To Restrict Charitable Bail Organizations

The bill would prohibit charitable organizations from paying bail for anyone who had committed "an offense involving violence" at any time in the past 10 years.

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Texas lawmakers are trying to thwart charitable organizations that bail people out of jail. In July, the state Senate passed a bill that would prohibit such organizations from paying bail for certain defendants. 

Bail allows defendants to remain free while they await trial. If the defendant abides by certain conditions of their release and shows up to court, then the bail money is returned to the payee. Defendants who can't pay bail have to stay in jail until their case concludes.

Charitable bail organizations like The Bail Project, the Community Bail Fund of North Texas, and Restoring Justice help those awaiting trial pay their cash bail, so they can get out of confinement without risking financial ruin. But if this Texas bill—S.B. 6—becomes law, these organizations would not be able to pay bail for defendants deemed to have committed "an offense involving violence" at any time in the past 10 years.

The rule would apply regardless of whether someone was currently jailed on suspicion of an offense involving violence.

It would include cases similar to Hervis Rogers', who was accused of voting illegally last month in Houston while he was still on parole for a burglary charge.  Thankfully, the Bail Project stepped in to help him pay his $100,000 bail.

"Under this bill, because he has felony convictions in his past, a charitable bail organization couldn't help Mr. Rogers," State Rep. Joe Moody (D–El Paso) told NPR. "He didn't commit a crime of violence here. He unknowingly voted."

The bill's supporters say that limiting charitable organization's ability to pay bail is necessary to keeping Texas safe from repeat offenders.

"This is not going to lead to mass incarceration," alledged State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston). "Instead, it should keep those who need to be in jail, in jail, so that our citizens can go about their everyday activities on the streets of Texas." 

But according to Jonathan Blanks, a criminal justice writer at Clause 40 Foundation and Reason contributor, the data shows that having cash bail doesn't make the streets considerably safer. 

"Earlier this year, I saw a report in Austin that showed five people released on bond over a three-year period were alleged to have committed homicide," Blanks says. "Opponents of bail reform will often point to cases like these as a public safety reason to keep people in jail before they are convicted of any crime. And while each of those homicides are tragedies, those five individuals were out of an estimated 65,000 on bond, which is .00769% of those released. Treating tens of thousands of people like potential murderers is anathema to the presumption of innocence and the American conception of justice."

"National research shows that people who are released without paying money bonds show up to court and stay arrest-free at the same rate as those who are forced to pay cash bail," The Bail Project said last March at hearing for a similar bill—which stalled in the legislature after Texas Democrats fled the state to protest a Republican voting measure. 

The latest bill would not apply to religious organizations or organizations that pay bail for less than three defendants in a 180-day period. 

It would also still allow defendants to take out bail bonds, wherein private companies charge defendants or their families a percentage of the bail rate in order to provide the entire amount. 

"For-profit bail bond companies take advantage of the urgency of detention to bind people to contracts that can mean debt and payments that last far longer than any court proceedings," noted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a 2017 report. "Whereas bail posted directly with the court is returned to the family that posted it when charges are dropped, for-profit bail companies keep the premium they've collected—even when charges are dropped or an arrest is deemed wrongful—collecting millions from innocent people." 

Gordon Cummings, President of the CantWait Foundation for criminal justice reform, criticized the bill for undermining American principles of justice. "A core tenet of our justice system is the presumption of innocence, and these bills assume that defendants are guilty," he tells Reason. "Why are we already punishing those who are simply suspected of committing crimes? We need to be vigilant and guard against such attacks on our justice system."

Many libertarians and criminal justice advocates are in favor of getting rid of cash bail entirely, or at least severely curtailing its use. 

"This practice effectively punishes the poor who cannot afford even a couple of hundred dollars, let alone the many thousands that judges can set in certain cases," says Blanks. "Ideally, cash bail would only be used in cases that the defendant poses a high risk of flight from justice…but the vast majority of defendants aren't dangers to society. Pretrial release, then, should be the default in most cases because of our legal system's presumption of innocence. In reality, however, many thousands of people around the country are sitting in jail for weeks or months waiting for their cases to be adjudicated because they are too poor to post bail."

Cummings notes the disproportionate effects that cash bail has on minority communities. "Black people account for approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population but comprise 36 percent of persons arrested for non-fatal violent crime. How many of those arrested are innocent?" he asks. "There are plenty of cautionary tales but the one that jumps out is Kalief Browder, a young Black man accused of committing a crime. He refused to plead guilty. He and his family couldn't afford bail (another travesty of justice), so he spent three years in Rikers Island. The damage that was done to him was so great that, after being exonerated, he took his own life."

As Scott Shackford noted last week, internet music sensation Lil Nas X recently came out in favor of abolishing cash bail. He writes as a part of his campaign with The Bail Project that "ending cash bail is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time."

Forcing defendants to pay their own cash bail or be jailed until trial is neither just nor effective. Charitable bail organizations are vital to helping defendants in this position. In prohibiting charitable organizations from helping, Texas would be making what is already a bad situation worse.

NEXT: After Claiming It Didn't Have the Power To Impose A New Eviction Moratorium, the Biden Administration Imposes a New Eviction Moratorium

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  1. Silly Texans, everyone know that the proper way to handle bail is to simply hold political prisoners insurrectionists in solitary confinement without trial for months to years on end.

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    2. The vast majority of them have already bonded out, and every one of them will get a trial. But keep pushing that sweet narrative!

      1. Except, of course, those that aren’t able to bond out.

        But keep pushing that sweet non-sequitur.

  2. Release em into unsuspecting cities and towns with a promise to show up to court someday.

    The feds know what to do.

  3. Just as so many relatively minor offences have been declared to be felonies for the purpose of stripping people of their rights, and how assed forfeiture prevents the accused from being able to hire an attorney, this is just another ploy where they will change the definition of “violent” in the same way they did with felony.

    1. asset, not assed. fucking autocorrect

      1. And yet, not all that wrong – – – – – – – –

    2. Salient point.

  4. the ruling class doesn’t live behind gates and keep armed bodyguards around because they want more criminals on the streets before trial.

  5. How about just eliminate charitable deductions?
    Solves a lot of real and imagined problems; church-state separation, this bail fiasco, the rich getting more of a benefit, all that jazz.
    Then eliminate all the other deductions and lower the rate.

  6. I know Reason has to put up an example that really has nothing to do with the law but everyone knows this is geared to the groups that bail out Dem rioters. For cases like this there are ways around it…give the money to a family member etc. What it will stop is the mass bailout of rioters the day after they burn down a neighborhood.

    1. Judges have the authority to hold people without bail if they are a threat to commit more crimes. This bill seeks to keep in jail those defendants who have already been declared safe by a judge.

      1. Judges have the authority to release people on their own recognizance if they can be trusted to show up for their court dates without an external incentive. This bill seeks to prevent the subversion of the judge’s determination that the accused is a flight risk who needs an incentive to show up for court.

        1. I think then that that might be a solution – force disclosure of who is going to supply the bail money. The purpose of bail is mostly to make it financially painful if someone doesn’t appear. A $50k bail is very hard on many offenders, but is negligible for multimillion dollar bond funds. If such a bond fun is putting up the money, they should have to put up enough that it’s bondees show up in court. Many don’t- – it’s not their money

          1. You say that many don’t show. What evidence do you have of this? The article specifically says that studies show most do show for court. While your argument makes intuitive sense, the defendant did not post the bail themselves so they have no incentive, the studies suggest otherwise and these bond charities are not just made of money, they are not trying to bond people out only for them to lose their money because the Defendant does not show.

            1. The existence of an entire industry of bounty hunters is evidence that people flee on bail all the time.

            2. “The article specifically says that studies show most do show for court.”

              It does not. The article says “National research shows that people who are released without paying money bonds show up to court and stay arrest-free at the same rate as those who are forced to pay cash bail,”

              That means that the ratio of no-show:show is similar between cash bailees and non-cash bailees.

              It does not say what that ratio is.

    2. Bingo. It’s there to stop the ongoing nationwide planned riots by BLM. But that’s not the only problem enabling those riots to happen. The affected cities have Democratic mayors, police chiefs, DAs, and in most cases judges, all of which deliberately let BLM/Antifa terrorists walk away scot free while persecuting anybody who defends himself against them.

      If Trump had had the balls to send in the army, he would have been re-elected with such a landslide the cheaters couldn’t stop it.

      1. Getting your ass kicked by your betters in the culture war, and complying with the preferences of your betters every day of your deplorable life, seems to have made you quite cranky, jdgalt1.

        Look at the bright side — you will find respite on the day you are replaced. But not before.

  7. Once again politicians attacking the poor. Look if your middle class or wealthier and convicted of a violent offense you get bail. But we don’t want the poorest getting bail and on our streets. But look this affects the poorest, those with the least political power so it an easy solution for lazy politicians.

  8. The ability to be released on bail should not in any way be determined by who pays for the bail. This is just a stupid attack on poor people.

    1. They commit most of the crime.

  9. There is NO recognition that the inmate is merely accused and may be exonerated; you are presumed guilty by the jail and treated accordingly.
    in Texas you cannot be walked through in and out even if you have bail set up. They want you to go through the entire process (slow and exasperating, spending the night in lockup) because anything else is “not fair” to those who can’t or haven’t already arranged bail. Of course the jail gets paid for that overnight prisoner.

  10. Is this not an abridgment of the right of free association? I mean, if I want or a group I represent wants to give an individual money, how on earth should the scenario be that the gov. gets to manage that? It’s clearly unconstitutional and really foolish. At the same time, any sane person knows that the only groups doing this in a meaningful way are Democrats and Progressives. Key takeaway – if the State can stop “Charities” from funding your bail, they can stop friends and loved ones from doing the same.

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  13. If there is going to be denial of 3rd party groups paying cash bail, then stop making arrests for drug possession in Texas. The fact is there are many people who are arrested (as attested by Reason) based on junk, $2, road side drug tests that have tested positive for “drugs” such things as cotton candy and donut frosting. Those are the people who are going to be most affected by this bill. Also in Texas you can be arrested over any misdemeanor or most traffic offenses, so people who commit a simple traffic offense might be denied someone paying their bail. So they sit in jail over something small and lose their job or their house.

  14. If there are violent aspects to them or their accused crime(s) maybe the bail could be set appropriately. Not a big fan of banning this. It isn’t like they were posting something on FB that the White House didn’t feel was party doctrine.

  15. The sole legal purpose of cash bail is to give the accused a specific financial incentive to show up for his court date. The posting of bail by organizations to whom the accused has no link nor obligation blatantly subverts that sole legal purpose.

    So the astonishing things here are 1) that it isn’t already absolutely illegal in all cases, and 2) that the Texas Senate is only considering banning such payments in a subset of cases.

    1. This is a good argument. Don’t allow any third-party interference in the posting of bail.

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  19. “State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston). “Instead, it should keep those who need to be in jail, in jail, so that our citizens can go about their everyday activities on the streets of Texas.” I guess innocent until proven guilty is out the window officially.

  20. I’d be fine with this if every time a defendant was exonerated, a legislator was randomly selected to sit in jail for as many days and nights as the defendant did. You’d see using dog sniffs and inaccurate field tests for drugs outlawed, as well as very easy conditions for pre-trial release.

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