Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2019

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Panel checks for bias in Nevada’s criminal bail system

A committee studying the criminal bail system in Nevada was told Thursday there is no validity to reports that the current system discriminates based on race.

Representatives of the bail industry told the committee Thursday that the bias may come from “gender questions.”

The committee, headed by Chief Justice James Hardesty, heard reports from Clark and Washoe county officials on the factors used to determine if a person charged with a crime is released on bail.

Anna Vasquez of Clark County said there is a 56 percent success rate on those freed pending their trial or preliminary justice court hearing.

She said a snap shot in October showed there were 3,785 inmates in the Las Vegas jail. She said 85 percent of them are in jail eight days or longer; 60 percent have no bail set and 36.6 percent had bail posted but could not make the payment.

Hardesty said there is a wide difference between Clark and Washoe counties on determining who is released without bail. And he suggested there would be even wider differences when statistics are provided by rural counties. And there are differences in the factors used to determine a person’s risk.

The committee was created to study how low-income individuals not deemed a risk are kept in jail and potentially develop reforms. On the other side, a person who might be considered a risk might be able to post bail and be freed pending court appearances.

At this point of the second video-conference meeting between Las Vegas and Carson City, there are no firm figures from the two counties to show where there might be improvements.

Stan Krimal, who owns two bail bonds agencies, told the committee, “We don’t have a system that is racially driven.” He called it “color blind.”

A representative of the American Bar Association encouraged the commission to hear from the victims of these crimes before taking any action. And he said the bail bonds industry should have a seat on the commission.

Hardesty said he would have a chance to present their views at the Dec. 3 meeting.

The chief justice is also asking that more information be gathered to present at the next meeting.

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