April 03, 2018
In 2016, the Virginia State Crime Commission (VSCC) authorized a review of pretrial services, requesting the agency provide a report on various aspects of their responsibilities and performance. The study was completed in November of 2017 and presented to the Crime Commission in December, 2017.
The presentation did not go well at all. It wasn’t because of style or the way it was put together. It simply lacked substance because the of the shortcomings of pretrial services itself. There is no “there” there. This should reveal that Virginia’s pretrial services’ agencies don’t deliver on the claims put forth by so many pro-public-bail advocates.
The bottom-line message put forth from the presentation was
1. that most people don’t know what pretrial services does, and
2. we can’t explain it or measure it; if we’re not doing a good job then it’s either a funding problem or DCJS’s fault.
One need to look no further than to the reports’ “Summary of Findings” and “Recommendations” sections to get a feel of their position. Some of their statements include:
· “The overall performance of pretrial services across the Commonwealth is difficult to assess.”,
· “Multiple pretrial services agencies have expressed frustration that funding is not allocated based upon needs.”,
· “Definitions are not consistently applied by agencies.”, and
· “Regular compliance monitoring does not exist to readily identify and correct data entry errors or omissions, which impacts the integrity of the data.”.
Pretrial services’ presentation to the Crime Commission was filled with obfuscations, protestations, and falsehoods.
The early part of the presentation contained the pronouncement “Pretrial supervision is not probation. The defendant has not been convicted of a crime and is presumed innocent.”
For those familiar with pretrial services, this point has to be continually made because it is widely regarded that pretrial services is probation prior to trial. The reality is once a defendant is placed in pretrial services, it is exactly the same as probation.
For example, pretrial services may require a defendant to perform one or more of the following:
· submit to drug or alcohol testing,
· report to a pretrial services agent weekly or bi-weekly,
· wear GPS or SCRAM bracelets (which aren’t free), and
· attend educational / rehabilitative courts (which aren’t free).
These conditions are the same as being on probation. Further, any violation will bring forth a warrant, and another charge is added to the defendant’s record, just like probation. What can happen is defendant’s original charge be dismissed or ruled not-guilty, while the defendant is found guilty of violating pretrial conditions. These additional charges are brought about solely from pretrial services.
The implementation of pretrial services has destroyed the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.
When addressing the failure to appear success/failure rate for their placements, pretrial services barely attempted to give an answer or any insight. Their responses were completely deceptive. For example, their first statement, “DCJS tracks appearance rates, public safety rates, and compliance rates to measure success.” is completely false. DCJS does not track appearance rates at all. This type of misleading tactic is typical for pro-pretrial advocates because studies consistently show private bail out-performs all types of public bail mechanisms.
The reason for this disparity is with private bail the local bondsman and the defendant’s loved ones are financially responsible for the bond. They have a vested interest to ensure defendant attends court. This is done with no cost to that taxpayer. With public bail, no one is responsible and the unknowing taxpayer ends up paying for it.
A full analysis of the presentation to the crime commission can be found here. While this event was not covered by the media, Dan Barto, owner of Aarrow Bail Bonds in Richmond, Virginia, continues to work to inform the public on various topics regarding pretrial criminal justice, as well as serve Central Virginia with a premium bail bonding service. Feel free to call Dan at 804-833-2785 with any questions regarding this article or bail bonds.
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