CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The news of former Del. Derek Evans getting out of jail has a lot of people talking about bail reform and the criminal justice system.
American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia Policy Director Eli Baumwell says the current bail reform system isn’t working.
“We have a system where people’s ability to get in and out of jail before they’ve been convicted is really based on how much money they have,” Baumwell said.
Baumwell says the system is not in the interest of public safety, justice or fairness. He says former Del. Derrick Evans’ immediate release following his arrest for his involvement in last week’s violent protest at the U.S. Capitol is a prime example.
“I think it really does highlight the injustice of our system. There are so many people in our jails right now that are there pretrial before they’ve been convicted,” Baumwell said.
The ACLU did get some legislation passed last year.
“For certain crimes the presumption is that they’ll be let out on personal recognizance and come back on their own. For other crimes there are objective factors,” Baumwell said.
The system is hurting people before they have a chance to prove their innocence.
“We know that they’re not flight risk. We know these are not people who are risk to public safety. We know that we’re tearing families apart. They lose jobs. They lose housing when you do this,” Baumwell said.
With COVID-19 rampant in communities, the less people in jail – the better.
“People going in and out of these facilities that don’t need to be there are a lot more likely to bring disease into these facilities where there is no social distancing possible and we know they’re more likely to bring it to their communities and spread it around,” Baumwell said.
Other legislation has been passed, but the next step is to see the policies implemented correctly.