Ever wonder if you’ll change the world? If your actions will make difference? Well, folks at the Bail Project don’t need to wonder, as they seem to have affected someone recently. The group attempts to “combat racial and economic disparities” by bailing people out of jail and thus “reuniting families.” Missouri prosecutors say they helped reunite Marcia Johnson with her abusive husband.
It didn’t go well.
Johnson was beaten in her St. Louis apartment before dying of her injuries. The man accused of killing her is husband Samuel Lee Scott. Scott was being held for domestic violence charges but got out with help from the Bail Project.
The Bail Project’s local manager Mike Milton called the situation “heartbreaking” but said “’it is crucial to remember that bail didn’t cause this tragedy.” Now, if what authorities allege is true, then Milton’s claim is correct: his group didn’t murder Ms. Johnson–they just enabled the man who did.
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Police say Scott admitted to striking his wife in the earlier incident, but that didn’t prevent the Bail Project from securing his release. According to the organization’s website, such decisions are based on a person’s “likelihood of returning to court” and not on whether it believes the individual is innocent or if he or she poses a threat to the public. In fact, the Bail Project is against denying bail for reasons of public safety, claiming the practice stems from “crime hysteria” and is “weaponized against people of color and poor people.” While it’s true that there are abuses of the cash bail system, it poses far less of a threat to minorities and the poor than violent criminals do.
Homicide is the number one cause of death for black males aged fifteen to thirty-four, and the number two cause for those aged ten to fourteen. What’s more, plenty of killers are on bail when they strike. Jaquarius Foxhall was when he is alleged to have shot a man in the head. So was Quinn James when he murdered his sixteen year-old rape victim. Michael Corbitt, Shane Casado, and Mario Richardson were too, and they aren’t the only examples. In fact, part of the reason why Project Exile was credited with reducing Virginia’s murder rate is because a large number those it targeted were held without bail.
Going to jail carries a risk of serious violence, including sexual assault and homicide. Further, innocent people can get picked up on flimsy evidence and jurisdictions can exploit the bail system to make money instead of protect the public; those are issues worth addressing. What isn’t such a good idea? Bailing out a man who admitted to attacking his victim. Because as the Bail Project says, doing so is likely to have “a human impact” on vulnerable people.
It’s likely to get them killed.
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