A miracle happened last month in Harris County Commissioners Court: Democrats and Republicans agreed on something related to criminal justice.

In a unanimous vote, the court called on the Bail Bond Board to enforce the 10% minimum for a cash bond. The move is intended to prevent defendants from circumventing high bail requirements, which are set by judges in an effort to protect public safety. Several bond companies have been caught making deals and allowing defendants to pay extremely low bail – 1% in some cases – for their release. This system of “freedom for sale” subverts the decisions of judges and, unwittingly, poses the problem of a public security policy that relies on the ability to pay.

Even as the surety commission kicked the box to make this change, Commissioner Rodney Ellis, a Democrat, aimed bigger and raised the idea to completely eliminate the cash deposit. “Our bail system is broken,” he said, suggesting Texas create a “safety-first system.”

It’s a good idea, but Ellis should give credit where it’s due – to the Republicans.

Even though election-year politics has some GOP members avoiding the question, Republicans in Texas and conservatives across the country have spent years calling to replace our unconstitutional system of state-based criminal courts. on wealth. Right now, Texans living in Democratic-run Harris County suffer from a crime-trial system that not only endangers community safety, but also violates individual liberty. Poor and working-class residents can be detained while still legally innocent simply because they don’t have the money to post bail. Meanwhile, wealthy criminals can use their ill-gotten gains to buy their way out of jail before trial.

Consider a recent example: the horrific vehicular attack in Waukesha, Wisconsin, committed by a man who was on $1,000 cash bail after being charged with domestic battery. The county’s risk assessment gave a fairly high risk rating, but the court ignored that red flag and through a cash bail system, the accused murderer was able to pay his way to freedom. In an ideal world, dangerous people should be kept in detention, no matter how much money they have. And people who pose no risk should not stay in prison when they could work and take care of their families.

This is why bail reform has been an essential part of Conservative criminal justice reform.

In his recent remarks, Ellis specifically referenced New Jersey’s risk-based bail system as a model. This state’s bail reform was endorsed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who, when challenged for his stance, pointed out that the only losers under the new legislation were the bail agencies that ” have made a fortune over the years, mainly thanks to the poor”.

In contrast, my home state of New York, where I spent my career as a police officer for the NYPD, passed bail reform with little to no Republican input or support. Implementation lacked adherence and made it difficult for the police to do their duty to protect the public. New York’s experience with well-intentioned but poorly executed bail reform has proven why it’s critical that conservative voices in favor of crime-smart bail reform be heard loud and clear.

Texas has many of these conservative voices.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht is a longtime supporter of replacing our broken cash bail system with a constitutional risk assessment.

“We think you should release people charged with offenses on their own recognizance if they don’t pose a flight risk or a threat to victims or reoffending or something like that,” he said in a statement. interview with the National Partnership. for preliminary justice.

Additionally, the O’Donnell consent decree that successfully brought bail reform to the Harris County misdemeanor courts was overseen by a Republican-appointed federal judge after Democrats swept local races.

But pro-reform is not just the view from above. The Republican base boldly endorsed conservative bail reform. In the 2020 party primary, 95% of Republicans in Texas backed a proposal that bail “should be based only on a person’s danger to society and flight risk, not ability.” to pay from that person”.

This bail reform language is echoed in the Texas GOP’s 2020 platform.

You can also hear this Conservative call for reform at the national level. Several conservative criminal justice experts, from the National Review to the R Street Institute, have argued that bail should be based on an individual risk assessment, not a cash bail system that ignores community needs. . U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist warned in a 1987 case that denying bail solely because a defendant cannot afford bail risked violating the U.S. Constitution, even whether he led the court to uphold a federal law authorizing the detention without bail of particularly dangerous defendants. “In our society, freedom is the norm, and detention before trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception,” he wrote in United States vs. Salerno.

I’m glad Democrats in Texas are finally learning facts about our broken cash bail system that Republicans have known for years. Hopefully they will join their Conservative colleagues in passing reform bills in the next legislative session that will make it easier to detain the truly dangerous, harder to break the constitution’s preference for temporary release and ensure that the public safety matters more than the profits of the surety industry. .

Jillian E. Snider is Policy Director for R Street’s Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties team, an assistant lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a retired NYPD police officer.