Bail Alternatives

By MILT POLICZER

Money probably can buy you love, but can it buy justice? The answer, of course, depends on your definition of justice. If it means getting away with something, the answer is probably yes.

I bring this up because the California Legislature last week passed a law doing away with the concept of bail for criminal defendants. The rationale was that it wasn’t fair: The rich could go free pending trial and the poor (and possibly innocent) could not. In other words, only the most successful of criminals got out of jail.

Obviously, bail is a bad idea (unless you’re a bail bondsperson). The question then becomes how do you decide who should stay in jail while awaiting trial and who can be trusted to come back to court? Under the new law, judges get to decide. There are some criteria but some groups that used to be in favor of getting rid of bail now seem to be afraid that judges will decide to keep more people locked up.

You can’t win. Either money makes the system unfair or judges who are either cranky or don’t want to be responsible for repeat criminals will jail almost everyone. It’s always easier to say no to everyone than be blamed for the occasional mistake.

Fortunately, I’m here to suggest some reasonable alternatives.

GoPro shock collars: All accused criminals will be fitted with nonremovable GoPros and shock collars. If authorities, watching the GoPro live feed, determine that a suspect is fleeing or committing a new crime, they can instantly administer a jolt of electricity. The voltage of the disciplinary shock can be varied according to the severity of the infraction.

The unconscious bodies of serious offenders can then be picked up and returned to jail.

Judicial malpractice insurance: Just as doctors will order too many tests and operations to avoid being sued, judges are likely to order too many jailings to avoid being ousted in the next election. The way to avoid this is by providing insurance in case of election losses brought on by reasonable leniency. Instead of money damages, the insurers could guarantee ousted judges jobs as insurance arbitrators.

Anti-bail (aka liab): Money caused this problem. Money can solve it. Instead of requiring poor people to put up money they don’t have to prevent them from not appearing in court, pay them money to appear in court. It’s simple economic theory — provide proper incentives. Not only would suspects be motivated to come to court, they’d also be motivated to turn themselves in for arrest so they could qualify for liab payments.

Critics of this approach might argue that it encourages criminal acts and might bankrupt the state. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Serious crimes will be reduced because anyone in it for the liab money will commit only the pettiest of crimes to avoid serious punishment after trial. And the liab money could be easily raised by penalizing rich convicted criminals.

All economic problems have simple solutions.

Unemployed bail bondspersons: Police might not be able to monitor all the suspected criminals let loose without bail, but an army of unemployed bail industry workers will need something to do. The bondspeople, who already have tracking skills, can make sure no accused criminal flees. This, again, will be paid for by rich convicted criminals.

And we’ll now have a system that encourages the vigorous investigation of white-collar crime. A good hedge fund manager conviction can finance the entire nonbail system.

Write your legislator.

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