A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Sen. Schickel: Cash Bail is a bedrock of free society; it ‘keeps government manipulation out of process’

It’s sad to see our state and the nation drifting toward socialism. Perhaps the most obvious sign was the popularity of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign when the youngest generation of liberals openly embraced socialism as mainstream in American politics, something that would have been unheard of just 20 years ago.

Sen. Schickel

In our beloved Commonwealth we now have both Democrats and Republicans, as well as powerful out-of-state interests, calling for bail reform in our criminal justice system. The right to post cash bail has historically been one of the bedrocks of a free society. The concept of eliminating cash bonds is essentially a socialist concept in which a person’s property means nothing. Do-good reformers would say that this is as it should be so that the rich do not have an advantage over the poor. This is a basic tenant of socialist philosophy. However, if used properly, a judge will always use a person’s ability to pay as a factor in assessing bonds. It is also important to realize that no court of jurisdiction in Kentucky has ever ruled cash bond unconstitutional. To the contrary, this important protection is enshrined in Section 16 of our Kentucky constitution.

Why is this so important? It guarantees citizens a “safety valve” against government intrusion by having all offenses, except for capital offenses, subject to a reasonable cash bail. These well-intended reformers want to throw aside this system in certain circumstances, which has worked for centuries, in favor of a government algorithm that determines risk assessment. It would dictate whether a person is released from custody depending on how the person scored on this algorithm.

Northern Kentucky Circuit Court Judges Julie Reinhardt Ward, Patricia Summe, and Richard Brueggemann recently testified on the dangers of using such a system to assess risk. For me, the most powerful argument in favor of a cash bond schedule is that it keeps government manipulation out of the process. Many times churches, citizens, and other groups would raise money to post a person’s bond to be released from custody because they had great faith in their innocence and were confident they would return to court.

The authors of our Kentucky constitution knew tyranny firsthand and did not want to take any chances letting the state government become too powerful. Proposed cash bond reforms would take away the ability of individual judges, elected by the public they serve, to assess risk and require a cash bond. It would leave these decisions to unaccountable government officials, not elected by the citizens of the community, to assess these risks. This is simply unacceptable.

Utilizing an algorithm as a “tool in the toolbox” to assess risk is fine information and its review and use should be encouraged. However, at the end of the day it should be the presiding local judge who makes the decision whether a cash bond is necessary.

If you have any questions or comments about this issue or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or at home at 859-384-7506. You can also follow me on Twitter @SenatorSchickel, on my Facebook page “State Senator John Schickel,” or send me a message here. You can review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.

Senator John Schickel (R-Union) represents the 11th District in Boone County, and serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

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