For over two years now, officials in Washington have been solving their jail overcrowding problems by sending criminals home to await trial, according to a report on October 22nd by the Spokesman-Review. These releases include those facing serious violent charges, including death threats, assault, rape, vehicular homicide, and child molestation. In total, this happened 665 times between January 2021 and September 2023.
Of those 665 people, there were some real headscratchers. A former Spokane police officer charged with raping two women somehow got out to await trial. Another man who punched a nurse square in the face for trying to help him got to taste freedom almost immediately. Even more mind-boggling, another man who slashed a victim’s face to bits with a handsaw got right out to wait for trial at home.
Discovering that 33 of these releases were being accused of rape is shocking enough. Learning that not only were they released but that 19 of those were against children was enough to leave anyone flabbergasted. An additional 24 were facing child molestation charges and also got no bail releases to await trial.
In that same period, another 2,704 people accused of both violent and non-violent felonies were released without bail to await trial.
County Commissioner Al French spoke to the outlet about their discovery. While he admits the decision was initially coming as a result of overcrowding at one point, he doesn’t seem to hold that same belief now. “So the only conclusion left – just bad judicial judgment… I look at these numbers and worry about the victims. Thirty-three victims of rape in our community that had to experience this. That is disturbing.”
Spokane County Superior Court Judge Julie McKay took the liberal path on the subject. Rather than object to people being released like this, she instead wants to defend it simply as a part of the American constitution.
“The presumption when they hit jail is that they are going to go right back out. That’s where we start from because that’s what the law says. From there, you are looking at an analysis of if you’re going to hold somebody, then you have to be able to hold them, saying they are going to fail to come to court or they are at risk of committing a violent offense. Or, they’re at risk of interfering with witnesses, tampering with witnesses, or interfering with the administration of justice that we do.”
She also claims judges weigh out their criminal history and mental health as well as other factors. Particularly “how old their criminal history is, what the actual facts of the case are, whether it is what would be considered a violent crime.”
One glaring problem with her views on the subject. The “actual facts of the case” aren’t presented until the trial is conducted. Until proven, they are just substantiated arguments at best. Given the level of evidence manufacturing the federal and state governments have been accused of doing, there is no just accepting the facts these days. Things need an opportunity to play out in court before any decision is rendered. If a judge knows full well they let an accused rapist out; they will ultimately have some degree of culpability on their hands should the assailant go out and offend yet again. By just letting them walk out with no bail, there is no guarantee they’ll even show back up for court.
These aren’t the people you want to let loose before a trial. Is someone selling dime backs of weed at the park? Provided it necessitates jail, let them go with no bail. The guy driving 95 in a 55? No bail is needed; go home and lawyer up before trial. Lady caught shoplifting to feed her kids? Let’s get them some help and keep them at home.
Helping out in those situations is one thing. Letting a violent aggressor back out to go after someone else? A different and unacceptable situation.