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Commentary By Jason L. Riley

Bipartisanship on Bail

Governance Civil Justice

Democrats and Republicans work together to make the justice system fairer to the poor.

Washington seems hopelessly divided for the foreseeable future, so it may lift your spirits a little to know that elsewhere in the country bipartisanship isn’t such a dirty word.

At the state and local levels, Democrats and Republicans are working together on cash-bail reform to make the criminal-justice system more equal for poor people charged with petty crimes. The thinking behind the proposals is that whether a defendant is released on bail should be determined by whether he’s a danger to the community or a flight risk, not the size of his bank account.

Last month, California became the first state to scrap cash bail fully for suspects awaiting trial, but other states—blue and red alike—already were edging in the same direction. Bail procedures in New Jersey and New Mexico force judges to detain or release defendants before trial based on their threat to public safety rather than their ability to pay. In January, Alaska implemented a bail-reform law that passed in 2016 with bipartisan majorities. Under the new system, a risk-assessment score is used to give judges a better sense of the potential danger in releasing a suspect. Cash bail is imposed only for defendants deemed high-risk and charged with violent crimes; most of them will likely stay behind bars until trial. Republican state lawmakers in Texas, Ohio and Kentucky have introduced or backed similar legislation for handling misdemeanor crime suspects before trial.

Continue reading the entire piece at The Wall Street Journal


Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator. Follow him on Twitter here.

This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal