Prosecutors allegedly want to arrest Kyle Rittenhouse again, who was a minor in August when he was charged with killing two people and injuring a third in violent protests against police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Prosecutors also want to increase his $ 2 million bail by $ 200,000.
This is because the Illinois teen may have lived in an unknown location and not at the address he gave the court.
The news raises all sorts of factual questions, such as whether Rittenhouse, now 18, was actually ordered or even allowed to move into the unidentified “safe house” as his lawyer claims, and if so, whether that was his failure justifies? notify the court. And it would be interesting to know if he has received credible threats for his safety, and whether officials in Kenosha, where he is prosecuted or in Antioch, Illinois, where he allegedly lives, do everything reasonable to protect him from legal proceedings, such as they should do it for all defendants who are in danger.
But the flap shows yet another example of the folly of the cash deposit.
Criminal suspects are typically released pending trial unless they are deemed dangerous to the public or are at high risk of escaping. The purpose of bailing out a court is to guarantee their behavior and appearances in court, supposedly because people would rather get their money back than disregard court orders or commit new crimes. But that’s fantasy – a story we tell ourselves to lull ourselves into believing that we are balancing security and justice.
Rittenhouse’s initial security deposit was set at $ 2 million. He didn’t have it, so he couldn’t pay for it. The first reaction might be: “Good! Killers shouldn’t be released. ”But of course Rittenhouse has not yet been convicted at this point. The bail is also intended to allow the defendant to go home to prepare for the trial, not to keep him incarcerated.
The usefulness of deposits is further diminished by the fact that Rittenhouse has become a kind of symbol of the far-right, old-right and white supremacy movements. Wealthy characters such as former child actors Ricky Schröder and MyPillow boss Mike Lindell helped raise bail on Rittenhouse, undermining the already vague notion that the defendant’s personal financial stake will affect his behavior.
So there is little obvious value in adding $ 200,000 to the deposit. Other sympathizers could only make the difference.
If keeping Rittenhouse in jail is the right goal, then the right response is not to put bail down to levels he cannot afford. The correct response is not to let him go for any amount of money regardless of politics, wealth, or popularity of his alleged cause. However, the only valid reason for keeping him in prison would be that he poses a credible risk of escaping or harming others.
This risk must be calculated based on the facts of the case and the specific defendant. Validated scoring algorithms can be used to weigh these risks, but they are condemned by some lawyers as tools that could be misused to perpetuate racial or poverty-based injustices. That argument helped convince California voters to vote against it last year Suggestion 25, declining state legislation to finally abolish money deposits.
However, these risk assessment tools can and should be continuously refined to improve their accuracy and balance. Without them, we are left in this state and most of the others with a system of sending people home or keeping people in jail, depending on their personal fortune or that of someone else. A judicial system cannot be more discriminatory.
A pre-trial system that is rightly criticized for the different treatment of poor black and Latin American defendants must also work for white defendants who, like Rittenhouse, have been accepted by white racists. And in any case, it has to work for the public, who deserve to be protected from people who would do harm. Any legal system worth its money must demonstrate that it works equally and effectively in ensuring justice regardless of wealth or poverty.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles times.