Chandra Bozelko: Kavanaugh defense calls for bail reform
It’s the new romance: being enamored with the presumption of innocence.
And don’t leave out due process, because what we see through the dogged defense against new allegations reported by The New York Times that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh pushed his penis at Yale co-eds more than once, this is an expansive affection that would never think of excluding any procedural protection when you’ve been accused of bad deeds.
Prominent Republicans, from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to Senators Lindsey Graham and Thom Tillis, have displayed undying devotion to the fact that people are legally innocent until they’re proven guilty. To them, everyone gets the benefit of the doubt when they’re alleged to have done wrong.
As someone who was incarcerated, I love this constitutional renaissance. I think we need to let the love flow its natural course and result in some bail reform.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, every day, at least 462,000 people are denied the presumption of innocence as they languish in pretrial detention. Most lose their freedom because they can’t afford to post the bond set on them.
If the defense of Kavanaugh isn’t partisan but is instead a full-throated upholding of the ideas of evidence sufficiency and reasonable doubt, then all senators who voted to install him - and so chivalrously shelter his reputation still - should engage in vigorous reform of how we detain these similarly situated people. They’re legally innocent, too, as their trials are pending.
It’s not a secret that our various systems of money bail are a scourge that lead to many wrongful convictions, as well as punish poverty.
According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, 90% to 95% of cases end in plea bargain agreement, not because all of those defendants are guilty, but very often only so they can get out of custody. With unnecessary detention unable to influence defendants’ decisions, we can protect not only the presumption of innocence but prevent guiltless people from taking on wrongful convictions to get themselves free.
In summer 2017, Senators Rand Paul and Kamala Harris - someone who believes in credible accusations as much as the presumption against them - co-sponsored the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act, a bill that would have provided grants to states and municipalities to use instead of secured money bail as a condition of pretrial release in criminal cases.
Any infatuation with the bill went unrequited; for the rest of the 115th Congress, it never got any love from the Senate Judiciary Committee, much less the chamber itself.
Given the newfound fondness that the Republican chair of the judiciary committee - Graham - has shown for forbearing any type of punishment or loss of freedom for people without a firm adjudication of their guilt, it seems like the perfect bill to resurrect and reintroduce now - and expect a “yea” vote from every single Kavanaugh defender.
Voters hear what senators say to justify Kavanaugh’s presence on the highest court. Justice would require those protections of innocence - until guilt is proven - apply to everyone.
I would hate to see their reaction when they realize that the Senate thinks constitutional protections should be afforded only to those who interpret the Constitution for a living.
Chandra Bozelko writes the award-winning blog Prison Diaries and is the Vice President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. You can follow her on Twitter at @ChandraBozelko and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.