Like Alaska, New Mexico and New Jersey, Delaware is realizing the unintended consequences of bail reform. Democrat Senator Bryan Townsend, a co-sponsor of HB 204 in 2017, acknowledges there are unforeseen problems as a result of the legislation. It is refreshing to see there are legislators who admit a mistake and then try to rectify the errors.

Esteemed University of Tampa professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Dr. David Krahl, predicted the results in 2017. Krahl testified before the senate when HB 204 was being debated. Though he provided his expert analysis explaining the flaws of HB 204, legislators passed the bill without the changes recommended. Now, they have to go back and fix the issues. The problems were not unforeseen. Dr. Krahl, through his expertise, logically explained the problems with HB 204. Some legislators did not listen.

Delaware has major flaws

The purpose of the legislation was to reduce the need for the use of monetary bail by replacing it with a pretrial risk assessment tool. However, risk assessments are flawed. Asking an offender a few questions, while using an algorithm to make the assessment, cannot predict the likelihood of pretrial release success or failure. Delaware found the same result as Alaska, New Mexico, New Jersey and many academics. Algorithms simply do not work.

One Year Later…

According to 1st State Update News agency, Democrat Senator Bryan Townsend of Newark acknowledged that unforeseen problems had developed as a result of the legislation. Senator Bonini stated, a number of “acts of criminality” stemming from assailants being released on unsecured bail had occurred. Townsend also indicated that there were numerous questions about the new law coming from both law enforcement, as well as members of the community.

Delaware Supreme Court turns a blind eye to justice

A resolution to alter the flawed rules was put forth by Senator Townsend. The Delaware legislature overwhelmingly passed the resolution in February of 2019. However, the Supreme Court has not changed the problematic rules they promulgated.

Senator Bonini Responds

Since the Supreme Court will not fix their errors, Senator Bonini has announced he will be introducing a bill to repeal the bail reform passed a year ago. Without action by the court, repeal is the only logical decision. It is in the best interest of the citizens of Delaware. A very similar scenario recently played out in Alaska. In 2016, the Alaska legislature passed very similar legislation. Alaska quickly found risk assessments do not predict pretrial behavior. They also found that releasing most offenders without any accountability leads to additional crime and offenders not appearing in court. Victim rights were not enforced because offenders were not adhering to their release requirements.

Other States

Several states are considering similar bail reform repeal measures as they are finding risk assessments and releasing offenders with no accountability has led to greater recidivism and lower court appearance rates. Legislators are being provided with erroneous information by groups like the ACLU, Arnold Ventures and Pretrial Justice Institute. These groups lobby legislators with the goal of eliminating accountable bail and the 8th Amendment.

The American bail system has worked extremely well to ensure court appearance for over 240 years. Bail has saved taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars of incarceration costs. It has also held offenders accountable for court appearances at a rate of over ninety percent. Without accountable bail, the rights of victims and defendants will be severely diminished.

Delaware realizes bail reform without accountability does not work. However, they have a chance to remedy their errant ways. Delaware legislators need to hear from the citizens they have sworn to represent.

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.