Next! Like a crowded DMV, taxpayer funded, government pretrial service agencies across the United States plod through the motions of “assessing” defendants with careless regard by using a flawed risk assessment tool (RAT). Typically, a government worker completes a seven to ten-question Public Safety Assessment (PSA), by checking boxes, mostly based on defendant answers, to determine a score. Based on the score, a person is either released or held pretrial. Bail reform and risk assessments are not considering a defendant’s needs the way a family member or loved one does. The result is defendants are dying.

Lucas County, Ohio

Unfortunately, Lucas County Pretrial Services continues to use flawed pretrial risk assessments that recently resulted in death. On July 27, 2019, Brent R. Reeves was arrested and booked into the Lucas County jail on possession of a controlled substance – cocaine. The reason Mr. Reeves was arrested is due to a concerned friend calling 911 to report Mr. Reeves had passed out and was unresponsive. Mr. Reeves was revived by the police using Narcan. Narcan is a nasal spray that counteracts the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose.

Arrest Record

Mr. Reeves had been previously arrested fourteen times over the past five years and was known to have substance abuse issues. He had also failed to appear for court during three prior cases. On July 27, 2019, just hours after his arrest, Mr. Reeves was released with no conditions or accountability based on the assessment provided by Lucas County Pretrial Services.

On July 29, 2019, Mr. Reeves failed to appear for his arraignment. Later that day, Mary Reeves-Smith, Mr. Reeves’ aunt, became concerned due to his substance abuse history and tried to locate him. Mr. Reeves’ cousin also joined the search. “We are only a year apart and grew up together. Unfortunately, Brent went in the wrong direction.”  Mary Reeves-Smith stated, “I tried many times to get Brent back into treatment. He had gone through treatment several times only to relapse each time. Anyone who knew Brent, would know he needed to stay in jail to dry out.”

Different Scenario?

Could this same scenario have occurred if Mr. Reeves bonded out of jail using the more customary bail bond? Yes, it is possible. However, there is a much greater likelihood that loved ones would not have bonded Mr. Reeves, the same day he overdosed. Loved ones knew he was going through a rough time and needed to dry out. There was a much greater chance bail reform would not have caused this death. The problem with government workers making a five-minute determination, based on haphazard questions, is they do not know the person they are assessing.

Would you allow a government worker to assess your child’s needs in school and make recommendations using a seven to ten question checklist over a five-minute period? Of course not. So why would you want the government to assess your loved one’s needs? Especially the same government who is prosecuting your loved one.

Pretrial Risk Assessment Research

Thankfully, more and more research is providing proof that these public safety or risk assessment tools (RAT) are flawed and extremely dangerous. flawed-pretrial-risk-assessments-raise-grave-concerns The Metropolitan Crime Commission based in New Orleans MCC has provided numerous examples of how flawed and dangerous these assessments are. MCC found free bond release, with no accountability, was recommended for 75% of violent felony and 93% of weapons felony suspects. Twenty-nine percent (29%) of those charged with murder and 38% of rape suspects were rated the lowest Risk Level 1.

An example of the flawed Risk Levels assigned to dangerous offenders can be found in the June 2019 arrest of two suspects in New Orleans. The suspects lived out of state and bound two employees of a CVS pharmacy at gunpoint while committing a robbery. When three New Orleans Police Officers arrived on the scene, the two robbers engaged in a gun battle with the police and wounded one officer. Each suspect was rated a Risk Level 1, which corresponds to a PSA recommendation of a free unsupervised release from custody.

Bail reform does not include loved ones who know the person best. Leave the assessing of individuals to experienced judges and those who care, love and know them best, not some government worker behind a desk yelling “Next!”

About Ken Berke

Ken Berke is a licensed bail agent in Florida. As Executive Vice President of Roche Surety & Casualty Co. Inc. he frequently travels throughout the United States meeting with bail agents and the public to increase awareness of the professionalism and importance of the bail industry to victims, defendants and the judicial system. He is a frequent contributor to the Roche Surety blog where he dispels false claims against the 8th Amendment and bail through facts, statistics and logic.