Nevada Supreme Court looks at reforming how judges set bail |
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The Nevada Supreme Court is thinking about changing the way the state's judges set bail. Justices are looking at setting lower bail amounts or no bail at all for certain first-time offenders.
According to officials, there are hundreds of people in the Clark County jail, accused of minor, first-time offenses. The ones who can't afford bail, sit there for weeks awaiting trial.
During that time, they can lose their job and their apartment, which increases the chances of them re-offending when they get out.
The new plan is expected to ease overcrowding in Clark County's jail by up to 30 percent.
Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty says he doesn't like the fact that most judges don't have enough information to set the proper bail.
"Our justices in this state fly by the seat of their pants," Hardesty.
Currently, judges operate off a set bail schedule. Which entails, if someone is arrested for a particular crime, they will pay a certain bail amount.
Hardesty said, often, little to no consideration is given to whether the person is a repeat offender. Take a drug dealer for instance.
"He has access to money where he can make bail, and he's on the street within hours of the time he's been arrested," Hardesty said. "So, we as a community are at risk that he will continue the practice. How have we improved the situation?"
Justice Hardesty wants judges to set bail amounts only after knowing the answers to a series of questions. Call them predictors that determine whether someone will (a) show up for court or (b) re-offend.
"Their criminal history, where they reside, whether they're employed, whether they have housing, whether they have alcohol or addiction problems," Hardesty said to name a few predictors.
Knowing this simple information, judges could set higher bail for those likely to re-offend, and just as importantly, release employed first-time offenders accused of minor crimes.
"If you are incarcerated for a period of time, you're at a high risk of losing your job," Hardesty said. "Once you lose your job, now you lose your apartment. Once you lose your apartment, not only you but your wife and children don't have a place to live."
Studies show, those who fall deeper into poverty are most likely to re-offend, which is what Nevada Supreme Court Justices are trying to keep from happening.