Bail reform bill shelved 1 day before ACLU report
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii today was due to publicly release a report on what it says is an unequal bail system in Hawaii courts one day after a state Senate committee effectively killed for this year an ACLU-supported bail reform proposal.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii today was due to publicly release
a report on what it says is
an unequal bail system in Hawaii courts one day after a state Senate committee
effectively killed for this year an ACLU-supported bail reform proposal.
The Senate Committee
on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military
Affairs deferred action on
SB 2860 for one year, pending a report from the task force the Legislature created last year to examine criminal pretrial practices and
The task force submitted testimony asking the committee to defer action on
the bill until it presents its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, which
are due prior to next year’s legislative session.
The ACLU, seven political action and community groups, and five individuals presented testimony in
favor of the bill. The Honolulu Department of the
Prosecuting Attorney, a bail bondsman, the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, a political organization and two individuals
presented testimony opposing the bill.
The House Committee on Public Safety is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on the House companion bill, HB 2221, where it likely will get the same reception. It was a House resolution that created the task force.
The bills propose eliminating bail requirements
for people charged with crimes unless the court
determines that they are
unlikely to appear for trial.
The ACLU says in its report that the state’s jails are overcrowded because the courts are setting bail in amounts higher than what most defendants awaiting trial can afford. It says the overcrowding is inhumane and that forcing people to prove they are not a danger to the community and not a flight risk in order to get released is unconstitutional.
The jails the ACLU looked at are the community correctional centers that house pretrial detainees, people serving sentences for misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors, and parolees
who are taken into custody for violating the terms and conditions of their release. They do not include prisons, where convicted felons serve their sentences.
The report is based
on the ACLU’s study of
1,735 criminal cases that were filed in the state’s circuit courts in the first six months of last year. The cases were for felonies and for misdemeanors in which the defendants requested a trial by jury.
The ACLU says Native
Hawaiians and Pacific
Islanders are more likely to be arrested, detained and unable to afford bail; jails in Hawaii have extraordinarily long lengths of stay for pretrial detainees compared with those nationwide; and that defendants in custody are more likely to plead guilty or no contest than
defendants out on bail.