Get Out Of Jail Free?

PRETRIAL RELEASE OUTCOMES STUDIED BY NEVADA JUDICIARY

By Sheila Freed

Lutheran-Episcopal Advocacy in Nevada is proud to be part of a movement that could radically change the justice system in this state.  The proposed changes line up beautifully with the ELCA Social Statement, “The Church and C criminal Justice:  Hearing the Cries” (2013).

James Hardesty, Associate Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme court, spoke to members of LEAN in May.  Then at the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly in June, the featured speaker at the LEAN-LOPP Advocacy Breakfast was Washoe County Public Defender Jeremy Bosler.    Justice Hardesty has worked for many years to make the criminal justice system in Nevada fairer and more efficient.  As the Public Defender, Mr. Bosler sees first-hand how the justice system is much harsher on the poor.

Both Mr. Bosler and Justice Hardesty spoke about something lawyers call “pretrial release,” which for most people means making bail.  A person gets arrested and either is able to muster the money to bail out or raise enough to post a portion of the bail and get out on bond.  It goes without saying that the bail system works against those who lack the financial resources to make bail.  Justice Hardesty pointed out that the system also releases the wrong kinds of people.  He used the example of a drug dealer, who can easily raise cash and therefore is back on the street within hours, as against a low-income single parent, who writes a bad check.  When that person must remain in jail, someone must be found to care for children, a job can be lost, and more.  Judge Hardesty reminded the audience that although both the drug dealer and the single parent enjoy the same legal and constitutional presumption of innocence, the negative consequences of arrest fall disproportionately on one.  Mr. Bosler noted that simply remaining in jail for more than a few days actually increases the likelihood that a person will commit another crime.  The reason is that the “pro-social connections” we all have in our daily routines begin to wither.

Many jurisdictions around the country have looked at the bail system and concluded that it isn’t fair.  Furthermore, it doesn’t work.  Justice Hardesty said that the federal courts have concluded that “a money bail system is unconstitutional.”  He cited a little known fact: In Nevada, it can cost a different amount of bail for the same offense, depending on what jurisdiction you’re in.  Washington, D.C., the states of Kentucky and Ohio have all moved to an “evidence-based” pretrial release system.  Their experiences are that if released with no bail, most people appear for court.  In Washington D.C., 92% appear, a higher percentage than with the bail system.

Justice Hardesty and his colleagues on the Supreme Court are now studying how moving to an evidence-based system would work in Nevada.  The key questions a judge must decide are whether the arrestee is a flight risk, and whether he or she is a danger to the community.  If neither is true, release on one’s “own recognizance” is appropriate.  In some cases, a person is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community, but should not be released unsupervised because they are addicted or mentally ill or otherwise not functioning well.  Judges have authority to release that person with conditions.  So a release with a requirement to go into treatment could be issued.  The justices have reviewed various “assessment tools” used by other courts to determine the best course of action for a particular person.  In July, several courts around Nevada will begin “field testing” the assessment tools.  Washoe and Clark District Courts are among those participating.  At some point, the Supreme Court will issue rules that will standardize pretrial release practices throughout the state.

Judge Hardesty noted that no legislative action will be required to make the change; judges now have discretion to release people on their own recognizance, and often do.  Bail bondsmen are understandably against eliminating bail for most arrestees , and some legislators could try to stop the change because they don’t want to appear “soft on crime.”    Judge Hardesty urged LEAN to participate in the Court’s study and discussion of this topic.  To learn more, go to http://nvcourts.gov/AOC/Committees_and_Commissions/Evidence/Overview/.  For all details, click on “Documents and Forms” to the right.  Parishioners are invited to join the dialog by contacting LEAN Advocate, Rev. Mike Patterson, at mp4675@att.net.

JUSTICE JAMES HARDESTY TO SPEAK TO LEAN

HARDESTYNevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty will talk about Judicial reform during two special presentation for parishioners and LEAN Parish Communicators on May 20 and 21, 2106, in both Las Vegas and Reno.

LAS VEGAS: Friday, May 20, 2016, 6:00 p.m.
The Lakes Lutheran Church 8200 West Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas

RENO: Saturday, May 21, 2016, 3:00 p.m.
Faith Lutheran Church 2075 W. 7th Street, Reno

These free events are an opportunity to learn about Justice Hardesty’s proposals for reforming the criminal justice system in Nevada. As a member of the Nevada Commission on the Administration of Justice, Judge Hardesty has worked for many years to bring more justice to the criminal justice system, while making the system more efficient, cost-effective, and transparent.

Judge Hardesty has been an ally of LEAN, and before that LAMN, since the founding of the Commission on Administration of Justice.

For more information, contact LEAN Director, Rev. Mike Patterson, 775-848-2566 or mp4675@att.net.

ELCA Bishop to Muslims: ‘We Stand With You’

As LEAN continually strives to advocate for “the least of us” at the Nevada Legislature, and throughout the year, with the support of our local Lutheran and Episcopal faith communities, we also keep in mind and heart all who fall victim to fear, ignorance and injustice in the world at large. The following open letter by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton to Muslim-Americans seems a timely and vital reminder of how God and the Holy Spirit work through us in many ways, across any real or perceived cultural or religious divide.

In a Dec. 11 letter to the Muslim-American community, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said, “I am writing on behalf of many Christians in this country who wish to share a word of solidarity, love and hope with you in these difficult days.”

“In our love for you, our Muslim neighbors, we are distressed by the ways in which you are being forced to bear the fears held by many in our nation,” Eaton wrote. “Therefore, we renew our commitment to find even more effective ways to protect and defend you from words and actions that assault your safety and well-being. We believe God calls us to resist what is divisive, discriminatory, xenophobic, racist or violent, and we want you to look to us as allies and friends.”

The full text of the letter follows:

Grace and peace to you. I am writing on behalf of many Christians in this country who wish to share a word of solidarity, love and hope with you in these difficult days.

In this season of Advent, we, your Christian neighbors, are preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who commanded that “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31, NRSV).

In our love for you, our Muslim neighbors, we are distressed by the ways in which you are being forced to bear the fears held by many in our nation. Therefore, we renew our commitment to find even more effective ways to protect and defend you from words and actions that assault your safety and well-being. We believe God calls us to resist what is divisive, discriminatory, xenophobic, racist or violent, and we want you to look to us as allies and friends.

The global refugee and migrant crisis and the acts of terror committed in this country and around the world are challenges that demand our collective efforts and our common prayers. Therefore, we will seek to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as agents of peace, justice, understanding, welcome and reconciliation for the sake of the world that God so loves.

In this holy season, when we anticipate the light that the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5, NRSV), we are reminded of God’s gift of life abundant for all. Together with you, we are committed to building a stronger society based on the dignity of each human being, the value of diversity, the holiness of creation and the common good. We pledge our partnership and invite our local communities into continued dialogue and engagement to this end.

You can download a PDF of the letter here.

Arrest The Traffickers, Not the Kids!

This story from the Los Angeles Times reveals a sea change among that city’s law enforcement agencies when it comes to the scourge of sex trafficking. They recognize children caught in this web for what they are — innocent victims, not prostitutes. May this realization take root in every city in America, and lead to true legislative change to rescue, treat and protect all young people involved.

Los Angeles sheriff gets real on sex trafficking

ELCA Presiding Bishop Denounces Possible Anti-Muslim Protests

In response to announcements from anti-Muslim activists intending to protest outside U.S. mosques and Muslim community centers this weekend, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), released on Oct. 9 the following statement:

“As Christians, we are freed in Christ to love and serve our neighbors. Today our neighbors include Muslims – upstanding faithful Americans. The enemy we face is not Islam but hatred and fear. I join my sisters and brothers in calling for gestures of solidarity with our American Muslim neighbors. Together we can witness to the world that God’s love will have the last word.”

Eaton’s statement is one of several from U.S. religious and other leaders made available through the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign: Standing with American Muslims, Upholding American Values. The ELCA is a founding member of the campaign.