A recent news article out of Mississippi illuminates the problems which can arise when courts are forced to rely on money bonds to protect the community from dangerous defendants. In Jackson, a man was charged with attempted carjacking and kidnapping, and the local judge set his bond for $1.5 million. According to the article, the defendant was making death threats while he committed the crimes, and the judge felt the defendant’s actions were serious enough to warrant an extremely high bond. As a local attorney noted, such a high bond is in effect a denial of bail. However, because Mississippi law only permits the use of bail to assure the defendant’s appearance at trial, courts cannot detain most defendants or impose conditions of bail designed to protect the safety of the community. As a result, judges have to resort to setting impossibly high money bonds in the hopes dangerous defendants won't be able to meet them.
However, many other states do in fact permit judges to deny bail altogether for dangerous defendants. These states have passed preventive detention statutes, which recognize that bail should also serve to protect the community, and that money bonds are ineffective for that purpose. Courts in these states can openly detain defendants who are too dangerous to be released prior to trial, without relying upon the arguably unconstitutional and illegal use of exorbitant money bonds. Mississippi's legislature could enact a preventive detention statute, or authorize the release of the defendant subject to a number of conditions, including the supervision of a pretrial services agency. Ultimately, money bonds fail to ensure community safety while still protecting the defendant's rights, and it appears some folks in Mississippi are beginning to recognize this.
To read the article in its entirety, follow this link: http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20100517/NEWS/5170319/Bond+system+under+scrutiny