By Leslie Acevedo
CHICAGO, IL – Alison Siegler and Brandon Buskey, in a published opinion piece in The Hill this week, wrote about federal judges and how they may be increasing crime rates.
Siegler is Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago and Buskey is director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project.
Siegler and Buskey note Democrats continue to double down on calls to roll back bail reform, as New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) urged legislators to expand the judge’s ability to incarcerate the accused while awaiting trial.
Politicians have focused on the idea that incarcerating people before trial leads to safer streets, between growing concerns about violent crime, said Siegler and Buskey.
But the authors note decades of research show mass pretrial incarceration ruins public safety, as a new study from Professor Siegler’s Federal Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School suggests, suggesting judges are making the problem worse.
Incarcerating even-low risk arrestees in jails for two to three days increases the likelihood they are arrested for a new crime by 40 percent in a well-known study, losing their jobs, homes, and custody of their children, said Siegler and Buskey.
“Policymakers across the political spectrum have long acknowledged the cascading, harmful effects of pretrial jailing.” The Bail Reform Act of 1984 denies judges from incarcerating people who are too poor to pay for their freedom, according to the opinion piece.
Federal detention rates remain high, as nationwide, an estimated one in four of about two million incarcerated people are awaiting trial, at a cost of $14 billion annually, said Siegler and Buskey.
Professor Siegler’s Clinic studied federal judges’ decisions, showing they regularly violate the bail laws they are sworn to uphold, incarcerating people who should be released, the authors charge.
Professor Siegler’s study showed federal judges are incarcerating people unlawfully in 12 percent of cases, lacking the requirements by the Bail Reform Act.
Federal District Court Judge Judith Levy states, “We have a crisis on our hands, and some of the blame falls on judges.”
Evidence suggests, “Judges’ refusal to follow the law is destabilizing communities, and may be contributing to the very crime wave they are trying to avert,” said Siegler and Buskey.
Federal judges should base their decisions on the law and the evidence, the authors argue.
“The Department of Justice just issued a new directive to all federal prosecutors reminding them that there ‘are cases in which [pretrial] detention is not warranted’ and emphasizing that every person has the right to a lawyer during federal bail hearings,” said Siegler and Buskey.