While in Atlanta, — Even though it once claimed to be at the forefront of criminal justice reform, Georgia is slowly returning to its old, more authoritarian methods.
Senate Bill 63, which would have required cash bail for 30 extra crimes—including 18 that are usually or often misdemeanors—was approved by a 30–17 vote on Thursday by the state senators, bringing it one vote away from passing in the House.
Restricting the capacity of charitable bail funds or even individuals to bail out several individuals from jail to just those who fulfill legal requirements to be bail bond corporations is another goal of the legislation.
Because of this change, low-income defendants may wind themselves behind bars for offenses for which they will probably never serve a prison sentence. Overcrowding in Georgia's county jails might be worsened as a result. The modifications that permitted judges to release most persons convicted of misdemeanors without bond were enacted nearly overwhelmingly in 2018 by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. This change is now being undermined.
This is in line with Republican efforts around the country to make cash bail more common, despite the fact that in certain areas run by Democrats, cash bail is either abolished or severely limited. Last year, people in Wisconsin supported a constitutional amendment that allows judges to consider a person's prior convictions for violent crimes when establishing bond, while a court in Illinois upheld a plan to abolish cash bail. This shows that there is a division in the state.
Republicans from Cataula, including former state president of the Fraternal Order of Police and longtime sheriff's deputy Randy Robertson, emphasized Thursday that the proposal is aimed at "making our communities safer." Since last year, he has advocated for the law on the grounds that victims feel uncared for when criminals are freed without posting financial bond.
On the other hand, Roy Copeland, a lawyer from Valdosta who was a part of Deal's Criminal Justice Reform Council, expressed concern that the proposal might lead to the loss of employment, housing, and child custody for those facing minor charges who are unable to afford bond.
It's not the first time Republicans have expanded the kind of crimes for which bail can be posted in Georgia; this is really the second time. Already at 24, that list would be further increased. Any misdemeanor violence, criminal trespass, or reckless driving committed two years or later would need the posting of bail.
STAY TURNED FOR DEVELOPMENT