By David M. Greenwald
Woodland, CA – The Yolo County DA has been attacking zero bail almost from its inception in April 2020—the zero-bail provision was in place just over a year from April 2020 until it ended on June 1, 2021.
This week, the Yolo County DA’s office announced that it had conducted an analysis of $0 bail and rearrests.
According to its data, “Recent criminal histories of the 595 individuals released on $0 bail in Yolo County were reviewed for any new arrests in the state of California. Of the 595 individuals released, 420 were rearrested (70.6%) and 123 (20% of the overall number or 29% of those rearrested) were arrested for a crime of violence.”
According to the release, “One individual released on $0 bail in Yolo County was charged with murder in Sacramento County for a shooting that occurred in Old Sacramento in July of 2021.”
District Attorney Jeff Reisig stated: “When over 70% of the people released under mandated $0 bail policies go on to commit additional crime(s), including violent offenses such as robbery and murder, there is simply no rational public safety-related basis to continue such a practice post-pandemic, especially in light of the increasing violent crime rates across California.”
The Vanguard back in 2021 undertook a full analysis itself of the DA’s claims on zero bail.
Overall, we found that the DA and office overplayed their claims on recidivism.
The DA has a more detailed but still rather summary report—just 12 pages in length.
One big problem with the analysis is that while they have a summary of how long it took for people to be rearrested after release, it’s hard to know how many of them re-offended before they normally would have been released under the old system. Remember that zero bail is instituted for people who are accused of misdemeanors and low-level felonies—but many of those are eligible for some form of release anyway.
We also don’t know how long they would have been expected to remain in custody or processed normally. The average number of days to rearrest is 149—nearly five months. Just 104 are rearrested within 30 days, nearly half are rearrested after six months, but some took up to a year and some even longer.
Stunningly there is no base line at all for recidivism rates which often run between 60 and 70 percent
It is in fact admirable that the DA’s office has taken to data transparency—but if they are going to present data analysis, they should adhere to basic norms that present not just the data, but proper context so that the public can assess the meaning of that data without having to spend hours doing their own research.
Had the DA’s office contracted with an academic or consultant, basic contextual variables likely would have been addressed. You need baseline comparisons, otherwise the numbers are meaningless and out of context and that’s what has happened here.
But there is another problem here. As noted in the report, “The purpose was to minimize the jail population to help fight the introduction and spread of Covid-19.” But they add, “The Emergency Bail Release program was not designed as rehabilitation or recidivism deterrent.”
That’s a problem. If you release someone who has committed a crime, give them no supervision and no services, they are likely to, once released, go back out and commit another crime. That’s just common sense. So that the fact that the recidivism rate would be 70 percent should not be all that surprising, particularly since the recidivism rate overall largely mirrors that rate.
This week, Nassau County New York came out with an analysis that found that while their bail reform is being blasted by critics, the data “shows few are re-arrested.”
Patch, for example, reported, “Data from the NCPD shows that 87 percent of people arrested last quarter were released without bail. But few went on to commit more crimes.”
While their time horizon is a bit different, their report shows that of 2641 arrested and released without bail from April 1 to June 30, just 195 were re-arrested, a three-month recidivism rate of just 7 percent.
Why the difference?
Well, as one program that works with women and children noted, many women are released without bail into their program: “They provide training and counseling to help women get back on their feet after they’re arrested and incarcerated.
“Overwhelmingly, people are getting help in the community and not recidivating,” it said. “So there’s just not significant data to back up rolling back bail reform.”
That’s the key. If you have a population that is committing crimes that has mental health disorders, they are out of work and suffer from substance abuse—effectively enacting catch and release without services or programs is doomed to failure.
Finally, the DA doesn’t discuss the overall inequity of bail itself.
“Bail for minor offenses keeps low-income people locked up, while those who can afford to pay bail walk free. By eliminating bail for minor offenses, people can continue working their jobs and engaging with their families and communities as they await trial,” the report out of Nassau notes. There is no discussion or recognition of this out of Yolo County—it’s simply providing a number, again without context.
And yet, as we know, simply the ability to pay bail has nothing to do with whether someone is an actual threat to public safety; instead, they are using bail to keep poor people in jail pre-trial in hopes that that will prevent potentially dangerous people from harming the public.
In short, the data analysis is woefully inadequate and, if it proves anything, it proves that for people to be effectively and safely released, it has to be more than simply catch and release—there have to be services and support to be effective.