Thursday, November 30, 2023

Pro-Israel lobby presses for US military support in war with Hamas

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most influential pro-Israel lobbying groups in Washington, is urging U.S. lawmakers to bolster security assistance to Israel in the wake of Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attack.

Hamas militants killed 1,400 Israeli civilians and took 240 hostages during a surprise raid in southern Israel last month. More than 14,000 Palestinians, including an estimated 6,000 children, have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war, according to data compiled by the United Nations.

President Joe Biden made it clear at the time that his administration stands with Israel, urging Congress to “take urgent action to fund the national security requirements of our critical partners.”

Three weeks later, House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger (R-Tex.) introduced the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, which would provide $14.3 billion in emergency funding for military assistance to Israel.

The bill passed the House, but Senate Democrats objected to a version of the bill that cut funding for the Internal Revenue Service, appropriated through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Some Senate Democrats want to pass aid to Israel as part of the White House’s supplemental security request, which includes assistance to both Israel and Ukraine.

A November 2023 Marist poll published in collaboration with NPR and PBS NewsHour found that “more than six in ten Americans think Congress should authorize additional funding to support the wars in Ukraine and Israel,” while 14% said they supported passing military assistance for only Israel, and 12% believed the U.S. should only provide aid to Ukraine.

“We strongly support and urge quick adoption of legislation to fully fund President Biden’s proposed security assistance to Israel,” an AIPAC spokesperson told OpenSecrets. The spokesperson declined to comment on whether the organization supports passing an Israeli aid package without assistance to Ukraine.

Granger’s campaign committee received over $71,000 from AIPAC and its affiliates in 2023. Many other lawmakers advancing recent bills and resolutions in support of Israel received political contributions from AIPAC within the past year and during the 2022 election cycle, many of which were made in the form of earmarked individual donations to the committee.

In addition to pouring money into political contributions and advertising, AIPAC spent over $2.2 million on in-house federal lobbying efforts in the first three quarters of 2023 — about $260,000 more than the amount they spent by quarter three of 2022.

AIPAC’s most recent lobbying disclosure outlined its lobbying on issues including defense, budgeting and foreign affairs. AIPAC lobbied many bills, including several aimed to sanction Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second-largest militant group in Gaza, as well as more generalized funding bills like the National Defense Authorization Act for 2024.

Oren Adaki, an assistant director of policy and government affairs at AIPAC, was Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) legislative director before leaving that position for AIPAC in Feb. 2021. Wilson chairs the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. AIPAC contributed over $40,000 to Wilson’s campaign committee in 2023.

Another AIPAC’s assistant director of policy and government affairs, Zachary Moses, worked as a senior legislative assistant to Rep. David P. Joyce (R-Ohio). Joyce serves as a member of the House Subcommittees of Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations, and received a small contribution of nearly $8,000 from AIPAC affiliates in 2022.

In their press releases lauding the passage of the NDAA in the house, Joyce and Wilson both highlighted the $50 million increase of the initial $75 million funding request for joint research and development between the U.S. and Israel. The House version of the NDAA for 2024 also includes an allocation of $300 million for the U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile program.

In 2021, AIPAC established itself as the leading source of federal political contributions supporting pro-Israel candidates and causes with the creation of an associated political action committee.

A total of $13 million in political contributions were made to members of the 118th Congress through AIPAC PAC during the 2022 election cycle, as well as over $8 million in 2023 so far.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who was recently indicted on charges of illegally acting as a foreign agent for Egypt, was the top recipient of AIPAC contributions in 2023, receiving over $1 million from the organization in the first three quarters of the year.

AIPAC also gave nearly $80,000 this year to Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who joined a bipartisan Senate delegation to Israel a couple of weeks after the Hamas attacks.

A few days before the trip, Rosen signed a letter from a group of senators urging the Biden administration to provide Israel Iron Dome missiles intended to intercept projectiles from Gaza. Two weeks later, Pentagon Press Secretary, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, confirmed that the United States would be sending two Iron Dome systems to Israel.

Other signees include Sens. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) — all of whom (besides Baldwin) received contributions from AIPAC since 2021.

A separate resolution declaring America’s solidarity with Israel was the first legislation passed under House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson, (R-La.) whose biggest contributor during his 2022 midterm elections was AIPAC. 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) introduced the resolution to reaffirm what he called “America’s unwavering support for the state of Israel.” McCaul received nearly $120,000 in political contributions from AIPAC this year.

This article originally appeared in on November 30th, 2023.  

Please support and visit The Brooks Blackboard's website for more news stories, and this link for my brief bio.

Connect on social media: 

Facebook: The Brooks Blackboard 

Twitter: @_CharlesBrooks   

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Baltimore Becomes Latest US City to Officially Endorse Medicare for All

By Brett Wilkins

"Every Baltimore resident deserves healthcare whenever they need it," said one local pastor who backed the resolution. "It's time to join every other developed nation in making healthcare a guaranteed human right."

Baltimore on Monday became the latest of over 100 U.S. municipalities to officially endorse a national healthcare program, commonly called Medicare for All.  The passage of a Medicare for All resolution—introduced by Democratic Baltimore City Councilmembers Kristerfer Burnett and Odette Ramos—puts Maryland's largest city in a growing group of municipalities including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Denver, Austin, and Washington, D.C. that have endorsed federally funded universal healthcare programs.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

County Exhumes Dexter Wade’s Body Before Family’s Arrival: ‘They Dug Him Up Without My Permission’

By Shaunicy Muhammad 

Hinds County exhumed Dexter Wade’s body from the local penal colony at 8 a.m. on Monday, hours before his family was set to arrive to witness his removal from the spot where local officials buried him long before notifying the family of his death.

The family’s attorney, Ben Crump, cited a signed letter from the Hinds County Board of Supervisors to Dennis Sweet, another attorney for the family. The letter said the “exhuming will take place on Monday, November 13, 2023 at 11:30am.”

Crump and Sweet said they had an agreement with the Hinds County Board of Supervisors that Wade’s mother would be able to attend the exhumation. The family only learned that his body had already been removed when they arrived at the Hinds County Penal Farm.


Wade died in early March after an off-duty Jackson Police Department officer fatally struck him with his vehicle as he attempted to walk across the southbound lanes of Interstate 55. His mother Bettersten Wade searched for him for months and reported him missing to police on March 15. But even though Dexter Wade had a prescription bottle with his name on it and the coroner’s office had already determined his identity by the time his mother filed the police report, JPD did not inform her of his death until late August—over a month after his burial.

Wade’s family asked to exhume his body on Nov. 13 in preparation for an independent autopsy and a “proper burial” for their loved one, Crump said.

“It was an agreed upon position with the County that Ms. Bettersten Wade would be here at 11:30 to commence the exhumation of her son,” Crump said at a vigil on Nov. 13. “Like a thief in the night, they went and took the body out of the ground. Ms. Bettersten asked, ‘Who gave permission to public works? What are they hiding?’” Crump said.

“Is this how the system works?” Bettersten Wade asked on Nov. 13 at the vigil. “They put him in the ground without my permission; they dug him up without my permission.”

Bettersten Wade, Dexter’s mother holding hands with Crump
Bettersten Wade, pictured with attorney Ben Crump, reported her son Dexter missing in March 2023. She learned in August 2023 that an off-duty police officer struck and killed Dexter Wade in March and that her son was later buried without her knowledge. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Crump and Wade’s family have questioned whether the lapse in communication from officials was related to the 2022 conviction of a JPD police officer charged in the beating death of her 62-year-old brother George Robinson. Robinson was pulled from a vehicle in the Washington Addition neighborhood and beaten by officers, witnesses said in January 2019. He died days later.

Bettersten Wade questioned how officials could claim they couldn’t get in touch with her to tell her that her son’s body had been identified when she would have been on their radar following the high-profile court case.

“How could you not say this is a vendetta? I put in a missing person’s report. There’s my address; there’s my phone number. How could they not put all that together?” Bettersten Wade said at a press conference on Oct. 30.

Dexter Wade seen wearing a Justice for George tshirt
Dexter Wade was walking across Interstate 55 on March 5, 2023, when an SUV driven by an off-duty Jackson police officer struck him. Hinds County buried his body in a pauper’s grave at the Hinds County Penal Farm in July 2023. Photo courtesy Dexter Wade’s family

The Hinds County Coroner’s Office turned Dexter Wade’s body over to his family following the vigil. Crump said a public exhumation would have allowed for “full transparency” with the family and the public.

Since NBC News first reported about Wade’s death and subsequent burial, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said that the circumstances were not the result of police misconduct or maliciousness. “There was a lack of communication with the missing person’s division, the coroner’s office and accident investigation,” Lumumba said on Oct. 26.

At Monday’s vigil, Crump accused Jackson officials of shifting blame and “trying to wash the blood off their hands.”

“There is no excuse for the way this case has been handled,” the attorney said in a Nov. 13 statement following the vigil. “Every time Ms. Wade takes a step toward getting answers as to what happened to her son, Jackson officials bring her two steps back. We hoped today that Ms. Wade could receive some answers and closure, but once again she is just left with more questions and even more trauma.”

Coroner’s office remove Wade’s body
Investigators with the Hinds County Coroner’s Office removed Dexter Wade’s body and turned it over to his family on Nov. 13, 2023. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Jackson Director of Communications Melissa Faith Payne sent a statement to the Mississippi Free Press on Oct. 26 saying that “officers were unable to identify him at the time” of his death on March 5.

“Days later, the coroner’s office was able to identify the victim as Dexter Wade by way of medication found in his pocket,” the statement said. “However, the contact information for Mr. Wade was outdated, and neither the coroner’s office nor investigating officers were able to make contact with Mr. Wade’s family.”

“Subsequently, on March 14th, Dexter Wade’s family reported him missing to the Jackson Police missing person’s unit,” Payne continued. “Missing persons officers did not know that the pedestrian victim from March 5th was the same person reported missing on March 14th. The lead detective in the missing person’s case continued to investigate until he retired in July.”

Payne said a second officer began a follow-up investigation in August “that led back to the coroner’s office.”

“Through collaborative efforts, they were able to close the missing person’s case, by identifying Dexter Wade as the pedestrian who was killed March 5th,” the statement continued. “While this is a very tragic and unfortunate accident, our investigation found no malicious intent by any Jackson police staff.”

When asked for comment today about Wade’s exhumation, Payne said “the City had no part in either his burial or exhumation. That was entirely with the county.”

Continued Calls for a DOJ Investigation

Officials have not said who approved the 8 a.m. exhumation. The Mississippi Free Press was unable to reach the Hinds County Board of Supervisors for comment for this story.

Hinds County Administrator Kenny Wayne Jones told WAPT on Monday that the situation was “very unfortunate” but that there was “no cover-up or anything like that—just miscommunication.”

Crump looks on as Wade’s body is removed by Coroner’s office investigators
Attorney Ben Crump, right, and Bettersten Wade, center, look at Wade’s body bag as investigators with the Hinds County coroner’s office place him in the back of a hearse following exhumation on Nov. 13, 2023. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Attorney Crump continued to call on the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct their own investigation into the circumstances around Wade’s death and burial. U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat whose district includes most of Jackson, also voiced support for a federal investigation in a statement on Monday.

“The circumstances surrounding Mr. Wade’s death are deeply troubling,” Thompson said. “The pain his mother and loved ones are enduring is unimaginable. The extensive local and national media coverage of this tragedy has prompted numerous calls to my office from concerned citizens in Jackson who are also searching for answers. The system owes Mr. Wade’s family an explanation for the callous manner in which his untimely death was mishandled.”

Crump said the family plans to have an independent autopsy conducted on Wade’s body. Campaign Zero, an organization based in Washington, D.C., is assisting with the costs. The attorney said the family plans to give him “a proper funeral” on Nov. 20 and that he expects civil-rights attorney and MSNBC host Al Sharpton to attend.

“Justice delayed is justice denied, and we will keep fighting for justice in Dexter’s name until his mother gets the closure she deserves,” Crump said.

This article originally appeared in the Mississippi Free Press on November 17th, 2023.  

Please support and visit The Brooks Blackboard's website for more news stories, and this link for my brief bio.

On social media, visit me on 

Facebook: The Brooks Blackboard 

Twitter: @_CharlesBrooks   

Monday, November 20, 2023

'Travesty for Democracy': Court Guts Key Part of Voting Rights Act

By Jake Johnson

"This decision is a devastating blow to the civil rights of every American, and the integrity of our nation's electoral system."

A federal appeals court on Monday ruled that only the U.S. Department of Justice can bring lawsuits under Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a decision that—if upheld—would deprive private citizens and advocacy groups of the ability to file legal challenges to fight discriminatory election practices.

In a 2-1 decision, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that there is no "private right of action" under that part of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits "any voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group."

Judge David Stras, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, wrote in the majority opinion that "the who-gets-to-sue question is the centerpiece of today's case."

"The Voting Rights Act lists only one plaintiff who can enforce § 2: the attorney general," Stras added, acknowledging that "we must decide whether naming one excludes others."

Stras and Judge Raymond Gruender, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, argued that it does, siding with a 2022 lower court ruling. Chief Circuit Judge Lavenski Smith—also a Bush appointee—wrote in dissent that he "would follow existing precedent that permits citizens to seek a judicial remedy" until either the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress changes the law.  "Rights so foundational to self-government and citizenship should not depend solely on the discretion or availability of the government's agents for protection," Smith wrote.

"The court has gutted one of the most critical protections against voting discrimination."

The case stems from a legal challenge that Arkansas State Conference of the NAACP and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel—represented by the ACLU of Arkansas—brought against the state of Arkansas in late 2021. Filed under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the lawsuit argued that a redistricting plan for Arkansas House races would illegally "undermine the voting strength of Black Arkansans."

"This ruling is a travesty for democracy," Sophia Lin Lakin, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. "For generations, private individuals have brought cases under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to protect their right to vote. No court had denied them the ability to bring their claims in federal court—with the sole exception of the district court, and now the 8th Circuit."

Barry Jefferson, political action chair of the Arkansas State Conference of the NAACP, added that "this decision is a devastating blow to the civil rights of every American, and the integrity of our nation's electoral system."

"By stripping individuals of the ability to sue under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act," said Jefferson, "the court has gutted one of the most critical protections against voting discrimination."

The 8th Circuit ruling is widely expected to face an appeal at the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court, which delivered a surprise victory for civil rights advocates earlier this year when it declined to gut what remains of the Voting Rights Act.

If the 8th Circuit's decision stands, an administration hostile to the Voting Rights Act could simply decline to enforce Section 2, a potential disaster for fundamental freedoms nationwide.

Experts were stunned by the court's willingness to dispense with decades of precedent by ruling against the right of private citizens to sue under Section 2.

"The brazenness of this decision is something else," wrote Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a professor at Harvard Law School. "The thousands of litigants who have brought Section 2 claims? The thousands of courts who have decided these cases? Somehow they all missed what these two judges, in their infinite wisdom, finally saw."

Wendy Weiser, vice president for democracy at the Brennan Center for Justice, wrote that "this radical 8th Circuit decision would essentially gut the remaining nationwide protections of the Voting Rights Act by preventing anyone other than [the Department of Justice] from enforcing them."

"This is deeply wrong," Weiser added, "and it goes against decades of precedent and practice."

This article originally appeared in the Common Dreams on November 17th, 2023.  

Please support and visit The Brooks Blackboard's website for more news stories, and this link for my brief bio.

On social media, visit me on 

Facebook: The Brooks Blackboard 

Twitter: @_CharlesBrooks   

Cash bail policies are under fresh scrutiny

Some places have done away with the system, while others are considering stricter guidelines.
States can’t figure out what to do about cash bail.  The system — in which an arrested suspect pays cash to avoid sitting in jail until their court date and gets the money back when they appear — is deeply entrenched in the nation’s history as a way to ensure defendants return to face justice.

But cash bail is undergoing a reckoning as policymakers debate its disproportionate effects on underserved communities and people with low incomes who sometimes can’t afford bail — as well as just how much the system truly keeps the public safe.

This year some states such as Illinois and jurisdictions such as Los Angeles County in California and Cuyahoga County in Ohio scaled back their bail systems, even eliminating cash bail entirely for low-level offenses in some cases.

Policymakers in other places, meanwhile, are moving in the opposite direction.

Republican lawmakers in at least 14 states — including Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin — introduced about 20 bills this year aimed at increasing the number of non-bailable offenses and either encouraging or requiring judges to consider defendants’ criminal records when setting bail, according to analysis by The Associated Press.

And in New York state, where changes to curtail the use of bail took effect in 2020, lawmakers have made several rounds of rollbacks amid concerns about rising crime rates.

Some bail policy advocates argue that these changes may contribute to racial and socioeconomic discrimination by relying on one’s ability to post bail and undermine the idea that those accused of a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“There’s no single answer to effective bail reform,” Meghan Guevara, executive partner with the Pretrial Justice Institute, a criminal justice advocacy group, told Stateline.

Measures to increase the use of cash bail or to include certain factors in assessing bail eligibility saw varying levels of success. In Wisconsin, voters approved a state constitutional amendment in April allowing judges to consider factors such as a defendant’s past convictions and the need to protect the public from bodily harm in “violent crime” cases.

Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation in July that requires judges who are setting bail to first consider factors such as a suspect’s flight risk, potential danger to others, past convictions for violent crimes and previous failures to appear in court.

In Indiana, lawmakers in April passed their first swipe at Senate Joint Resolution 1, which would amend language in the state’s constitution and enable judges to deny bail to those they consider a “substantial risk.” The bill must pass again in 2025 before appearing on the ballot in 2026.

In Georgia, lawmakers considered legislation that sought to impose cash or property bail for dozens of additional crimes, including misdemeanors. It failed due to disagreements between the House and Senate, but Republican state Rep. Houston Gaines, who sponsored the measure in the House, expects the bill to pass in the next legislative session.

Gaines, in an emailed statement, said: “Eliminating cash bail has been a disaster in places it’s been tried — even New York has reversed course on some of its radical policies. We can’t afford to create a revolving door of criminals who don’t show up for court and victimize other individuals.”

Political backlash and rollbacks

Between 2017 and 2019, a bipartisan movement for changes to bail systems gained momentum at both the local and state levels. Some states, such as New Mexico, New Jersey and Kentucky, sharply curtailed their cash bail systems by almost entirely eliminating cash bail, expanding release programs and moving toward risk-based assessments to determine pretrial release.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic strained crowded jails and detention centers, and agencies eased bail systems to reduce exposure.

Between 2019 and 2020, homicide rates increased 30% — one of the largest year-over-year increases on record, according to data released by the FBI and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Homicide gun deaths also surged 35% in 2020, the largest year-over-year increase recorded in more than 25 years. Despite these increases, the overall violent crime rate in the country did not increase during the pandemic, according to federal crime surveys.

In California and New York, policymakers rolled back their pre-pandemic changes to cash bail.

“Fears about public safety are in many ways greatly overblown and misplaced,” said Sharlyn Grace, a senior policy adviser at the law office of the Cook County Public Defender in Illinois. “It is exceedingly rare for someone who’s released pretrial to be arrested and accused of a new offense that involves violence against another person.”

report released by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in 2021 found that about 95% of individuals arrested and released between January and September 2020 were not rearrested while awaiting trial, and there was a very little difference in rearrest rates before and after bail reform in the state.

It is exceedingly rare for someone who's released pretrial to be arrested and accused of a new offense that involves violence against another person.

– Sharlyn Grace, senior policy adviser at the law office of the Cook County Public Defender in Illinois

New York had passed a sweeping overhaul in 2019, largely ending the use of money bail for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies, with a focus on imposing the “least restrictive” release conditions. The state’s bail law has undergone multiple rounds of revisions since then, primarily driven by calls from Republicans to amend or completely reverse the law.

In early 2020, New York expanded bail options, particularly in cases involving harm to a person or property. In 2022, the state further broadened the definition of “harm” and clarified factors judges must consider, such as criminal history, when setting release conditions.

This year, negotiations over additional changes led to the removal of the requirement for the “least restrictive” release, a proposal announced by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul last spring.

Some state Democrats and criminal justice advocacy groups have strongly criticized these changes, arguing that the most recent revisions represent a rollback in progress.

“These rollbacks have had a serious effect on our pretrial population, and we’re still seeing the same kinds of wealth-based and racial inequities that were the drivers of bail reform in the first instance,” said Jullian Harris-Calvin, the director of the Greater Justice New York program under the Vera Institute of Justice, a national nonprofit criminal justice advocacy group.

Money bail remains prohibited for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies in New York, with some exceptions related to rearrested individuals.

In 2018, then-California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed Senate Bill 10 into law, which would have made the Golden State the first to end the use of cash bail for all detained suspects awaiting trials. The American Bail Coalition, a nonprofit trade association representing the bail industry, pushed back hard, organizing Californians Against the Reckless Bail Scheme to lead a repeal effort through a veto referendum.

Voters repealed the measure in 2020. Some who opposed the law said the proposed risk assessment tool — which generally measures factors such as flight risk, public safety risk and criminal history — could potentially cause more harm than good, said Allie Preston, a senior policy analyst for criminal justice reform with the left-leaning policy institute Center for American Progress. Some bail policy advocates say using risk assessment tools in the pretrial process may contribute to more racial and socioeconomic inequities.

Jeff Clayton, the executive director of the American Bail Coalition, said in an interview that risk-based assessments are problematic because “there’s no scientific way to predict pretrial risk in terms of a particular defendant.” Clayton added that setting a bail amount offers more flexibility, which may be beneficial in some cases.

“The question is, can we engineer the alternate system better than the existing system of monetary bonds, posting bonds and staying in jail that’s existed throughout history?” Clayton said. “There’s reasons to suggest that we can’t do a better job.”

Although statewide change to California’s bail system failed, a few jurisdictions in the state have introduced other changes to their bail systems. Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco both use risk assessment tools and offer other services to help those released pretrial return for their court dates and address needs, such as transportation.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court implemented a zero cash bail system in October. Under the new bail protocols, those charged with nonviolent or less serious crimes will be detained before arraignment only if a judge determines they present a threat to the community or a potential flight risk instead of whether they are capable of posting bail. In cases of violent and serious felonies, however, the bail system remains intact.

“[Los Angeles County’s new] bail policy is a really important step towards promoting safety and justice and away from a system where the rich are able to buy their freedom and the poor languish in jail,” said Claire Simonich, the associate director of Vera California, an initiative under the Vera Institute of Justice.

Some residents, county officials and members of law enforcement say the new policy will compromise law enforcement’s ability to address crime. And at least a dozen municipalities in Los Angeles County filed a lawsuit in September to block the new system from taking effect.

More legislative efforts

Lawmakers in some states have pushed for further changes in their legislative sessions.

Connecticut state Rep. Steven Stafstrom, a Democrat, said the problem in his state stems from an outdated constitutional provision that limits the state’s ability to deny bail, primarily reserving bail for capital offenses. But the state abolished the death penalty more than a decade ago. Since capital offenses no longer exist in Connecticut, there are limited legal grounds for holding people pretrial, especially if they have the financial means to post bail.

“We really need to first repeal that provision out of the state constitution and then move much more towards a risk-based system that takes into account someone’s risk and likelihood to flee as opposed to simply their ability to pay,” Stafstrom said in an interview with Stateline.

In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Democrats this year would limit the use of cash bail by the courts for misdemeanor offenses.

In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where Cleveland is located, informal changes to the court’s culture and practices have reduced the number of people required to pay cash bail, according to The Marshall Project, a news outlet focused on criminal justice. The state supreme court also made changes in 2020 and 2021 aimed at reducing the number of people jailed before trial. Last year, voters passed a measure that requires judges to consider certain factors when setting bail, including public safety.

The adoption of alternative approaches, such as pretrial risk assessments, is gaining ground across the country. Some two dozen different risk assessment tools are in use in at least 26 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Photo credit: Kris Arnold

This article originally appeared in the on November 13th, 2023.  

Please support and visit The Brooks Blackboard's website for more news stories, and this link for my brief bio.

On social media, visit me on 

Facebook: The Brooks Blackboard 

Twitter: @_CharlesBrooks