What would happen if you created a system to predict the future behavior of a human being and that system failed miserably? What if you spent millions of dollars on that system? What if that system, while promising huge cost savings actually required you to hire more court clerks, judges, solicitors and police officers? What if this system, with its many failures, was touted as an amazing and innovative system that every state should adopt?

What you would have would be the state of New Jersey and its experiment with eliminating the bail system and replacing it with an unproven database tool.

Nine months ago the state of New Jersey adopted the Arnold Foundation’s assessment tool and they only had to change the state’s constitution to do it. To say that this change is receiving mixed reviews is an understatement. The promise of cost savings and a safer community to the citizen has evaporated.

The advocates of the Arnold Foundation’s assessment tool promised positive outcomes due to non-biased decisions and the release of non-violent or indigent defendants.  Hog wash. Instead what this new system did was facilitate the release of those accused of violent crimes including gun charges, fleeing police, sex offenses, child pornography, drug possession and drug distribution. The release of repeat offenders has become common practice. 

The promised reduction in racial bias and indigent releases still remains to be seen. A 2016 Pro Publica investigation has actually found that “risk assessment “ programs actually had a negative affect on black defendants. The risk assessment tools had only been examined in one or two studies and frequently by those who created and developed the instrument. For those states and jurisdictions that have bought into the new system of algorithm release decisions the consequences can be deadly. To date their has been at least two defendants that have been released and committed such a heinous offense “murder.” 

The general principles that should be followed for risk assessment. 

• 1)  Identify the hazard

• 2)  Decide who might be harmed and how

• 3)  Evaluate the risks

• 4)  Record your findings

• 5)  Review your assessments

 These five basic principles must be better understood and adopted. Incarceration was established to protect the citizen not the accused. Haphazard and unproven scientific algorithm cannot yet guarantee future behavior. This new and dangerous approach to release at the expense of the citizen is a liberal approach to enlarge government by endangering the very people they lead. 

 The most effective form of release that guarantees the defendants appearance and protects the state , citizen and defendant alike is the commercial surety “bail bondsman. “ As a citizen demand to see the risk assessment statistics don’t continue to be deceived. 

Don Mescia, 

Executive Director, UBA