Data released last September by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services provided researchers at the Manhattan Institute with the necessary information to compare the rearrest rate for offenders prior to the state’s 2020 bail reform law with the rearrest rate after the law took effect. The intent of the bail reform law was to force judges to release more arrestees without bail, called Non-Monetary Release (NMR). Charles Fain Lehman’s piece in the City Journal confirmed what many in law enforcement had predicted: when offenders are released without bail, they are more likely to be rearrested for committing new crimes.
This finding was ignored by the major media and liberal think tanks like the Brennan Center, which had for months tried to convince the public that releasing more offenders without bail was not the cause of increased crime across the state. One exception was a September New York Post article by Jim Quinn that noted: “in 2019, 166 of the NMR participants got re-arrested each month. In 2021, the number soared to 445 re-arrests a month, including more than 300 felonies each month.” That’s over 2-1⁄2 times more rearrests per month.
Earlier this month, a study by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office (California) appears to confirm the findings in New York. While California did not enact a bail reform law similar to New York’s, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the state did order a Statewide Emergency Bail Policy on April 6, 2020, eliminating bail for those arrested for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. It should be noted that vehicle theft and drug dealing are nonviolent felonies in California. This policy remained in force in Yolo County until May 31, 2021.
The study looked at a random sample of 100 arrested individuals who were released under emergency zero bail in Yolo County and compared their recidivism with a random sample of 100 similarly situated individuals who posted bail in Yolo County between January 2018 to December 2019.
“Recidivism during an 18-month period was examined for a random sample of 100 arrested individuals who posted bail in 2018 or 2019, compared to a random sample of 100 arrested individuals who were released on zero bail between April 19, 2020, and May 31, 2021. Offender demographics and original offenses were similar for the comparison groups despite the random sample generator process. Recidivism was counted if the individual was arrested anywhere within 18 months, for at least one new crime, after being previously released.
“In this study, individuals released on zero bail were subsequently rearrested for a total of 163% more crimes than individuals released on bail.
“The average recidivism rate for those released on zero bail was 78% over 18 months, while the average recidivism rate for those released on bail was only 46%. Thus, arrested individuals released on zero bail reoffended at an average rate that was 70% higher than arrestees who posted bail…. Individuals released on zero bail committed new felonies 90% more often than those who posted bail…. Individuals released on zero bail committed new violent offenses 200% more often than those who posted bail.”
Could there be other factors that contributed to the significantly increased rearrest rates in New York and Yolo County following the elimination of cash bail? Certainly. But widely published claims that the crime spike was caused by the pandemic do not explain why during the first four months of business lockdowns and school closures and masking, crime rates were significantly lower than in previous years. Yet after the nationwide George Floyd riots erupted in late May 2020, reported crimes (particularly violent crimes) climbed to unprecedented highs. The logical conclusion is that with tens of thousands of offenders turned loose under zero bail, and tacit approval for the “mostly peaceful” rioting by the national media and political leaders, most parts of the country had become consequence-free environments for criminals.
The blanket elimination of bail for large classes of arrestees has never been a good idea. It was a particularly bad idea in 2020.
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