To the Editor,
In News From the Assembly (April 22, 2019), Assemblyman Will Barclay indicates his opposition to the current changes in the State’s criminal justice system. Specifically, he opposes the new law eliminating cash bail for minor crimes, especially because the law also takes power away from judges to use their discretion to incarcerate defendants until their trials.
Mr. Barclay admits a system based on cash bail sometimes discriminates against the poor, and “that some reform was necessary.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Barclay does not detail his remedy. What would he suggest be done to rectify the unfairness in the system, while also continuing to give judges the power of pretrial incarceration?
For example, I wonder if judges have used their discretion for pretrial incarceration more frequently when the defendants are poor and/or people of color?
We all, regardless of political leanings, know, or at least suspect, that the system does not treat all defendants equally. Some defendants have money and connections. Many others do not. Some can post bail and resume their normal lives while awaiting trial. Others are made to sit in prison, waiting for the far too slow wheels of justice to turn.
Until our judicial system has the resources to ensure that all defendants have access to adequate legal counsel and a speedy trial, then eliminating judicial discretion and bail for for all defendants who don’t pose a threat to the public seems the least we can do.