May 20, 2022


Through Education Matters

County must re-think release of dangerous pandemic-era inmates

Santa Clara County has quietly been through a pandemic-period experiment of releasing unprecedented quantities of jail inmates. Before the county Board of Supervisors pursues its coverage of “depopulating the jail” any even further, it need to heed the lessons of our modern experience.

In November of 2020, San Jose law enforcement arrested a 29-yr-outdated person for alleged youngster molestation. The future working day, a Top-quality Court docket choose introduced the defendant devoid of bail — more than the objection of the Santa Clara County District Attorney. The defendant fled to Texas right before his upcoming court docket date. Just after his extradition to Santa Clara County, the defendant was all over again unveiled — all over again above the DA’s objection — on bail.

If this amounted to an isolated case, we should wait to attract conclusions. It is not. A homicide arrestee in January 2021 fled to Mexico put up-launch. Two murder arrestees were being introduced with no bail in Oct of 2021. Very last year’s pretrial release of arrestee Harry Goularte captured countrywide interest when he turned the subject matter of retribution by former UFC champion Cain Velasquez, a disappointed relative of the youngster sufferer of Goularte’s alleged molestation.

The info seems similarly troubling. In accordance to county facts, virtually 50 percent of our unveiled defendants violated their disorders of release, fully commited a new crime or unsuccessful to look in courtroom:

To be honest, this “experiment” had understandable origins: Efforts to mitigate the unfold of COVID inside of county jails thinned inmate populations to about fifty percent of the jails’ potential.  It forced judges to challenge an emergency judicial bail routine to launch arrestees who or else could possibly have experienced bail or detention orders. Puzzling interpretations of a current California Supreme Courtroom final decision spurred but more releases, despite that Court’s reaffirmation of the constitutional authority to detain defendants wherever “public or sufferer safety, or the arrestee’s physical appearance in court docket, simply cannot be reasonably certain if the arrestee is released.”

Irrespective, our community feels the impression. Spanish-speaking moms in the Washington Guadalupe neighborhood say they can not permit their little ones engage in outside for anxiety of a few males routinely arrested for choosing fights and threatening neighbors. A downtown San Jose cafe manager expresses helplessness about repeated burglaries by the exact thieves. Our police officers arrest “frequent flyers” only to see them produced inside hrs SJPD arrested 30 folks additional than 10 periods for separate offenses in a solitary, 14-thirty day period time period.

Some produced arrestees commit petty theft. Others do much worse, as with the February 2019 murder of Bambi Larson or the November 2020 stabbing of people at a homeless shelter.

As the jail populace declined in 2020, rapes, robberies, assaults, and domestic violence phone calls improved.  We skilled this troubling surge in spite of new years’ internet addition of 228 officers to SJPD’s pressure and irrespective of enlargement of criminal offense avoidance courses, like investment in instructional aid and positions for young older people, community empowerment, gang avoidance and reaction to mental wellness crises. Of class, we ought to exercise caution before attributing criminal offense to any just one component between numerous complicated causes, but jail releases didn’t aid.

Luckily, in modern months, the courts consolidated felony arraignments right before a single decide. Executing so has improved the regularity of pretrial release conclusions and stabilized the jail population, albeit at historically small degrees.

Have we realized everything from this experiment? Since November 2020, the Board of Supervisors frequently reaffirmed the County’s “commit(ment) to decreasing the County jail inhabitants,” but general public conferences hardly ever include any inquiry of the affect of jail depopulation on crime in our most susceptible neighborhoods. Judges will before long revise the bail purchase, however their options continue to be constrained by shrinking jail capacity — the county strategies to supplant the growing older major jail with a lesser version, for illustration — and by the countywide paucity of inpatient drug treatment method and psychological health and fitness beds.

We should aid choices to detention when they can be carried out properly. But too usually, which is not occurring. The jail — though inadequately managed — has a purpose. Right until the county and point out develop vastly more in depth inpatient drug cure and psychological overall health selections, the jail remains necessary to the safety of the community and the integrity of the felony justice system.

We need to not return to the injustices of mass incarceration nor to the excesses of “mandatory minimum” sentencing laws. Let’s only heed the failures of pandemic-era releases and halt a pendulum that has swung much too much — and far too unsafely. Chart a safer path.

Sam Liccardo is mayor of San Jose.