In yesterday's Argus Leader, there was a story about the problem of overcrowding in the Minnehaha county jail. As the story was examining some of the ways to reduce the overcrowding, I noticed an interesting idea. One of the reason given for the crowding is the holding of prisoners before trial. This suggestion was offered by Mike Butler, a defense lawyer:
"I think there are valid questions to be raised on whether the money bail system is in fact constitutional," said Mike Butler, a Sioux Falls defense lawyer who is in favor of phasing out the money-based bail system.
"There clearly is a movement in the country — the District of Columbia is the most recent example — of abolishing the money-bail system we know," Butler said. "Instead, they simply determine if a person must be detained due to danger or other factors."It seems the idea of going to a bail bonds person like Dan "the man" Lederman, former Senator from District 16 and the guy who runs Rushmore PAC, may be something more than unethical; it may be unconstitutional. The system that Dan and family relied on to make their living is a system where a person with access to money can avoid the long pre-trial detention and those without access to money sit in jail. As Slate magazine reports-
One of Karakatsanis’ suits, against Velda City, Missouri, was filed on behalf of a 26-year-old mother of two who had been asked to pay $650 to avoid jail after being charged with having a broken headlight on her car and driving without insurance on a suspended license. That case, in which Karakatsanis worked with Thomas Harvey of the nonprofit pro bono law firm ArchCity Defenders, ended earlier this month with a settlement that forbids the municipal court in Velda City—where most local arrestees brought in on misdemeanor charges and ordinance violations are prosecuted—from making people pay bail in order to avoid pre-trial detention.
“No person may, consistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, be held in custody after an arrest because the person is too poor to post a monetary bond,” the court-ordered settlement read. That seemingly unequivocal declaration caused reformers around the country to take notice and prompted Tim Schnacke, the executive director of a research center focused on bail policy, to write an enthusiastic blog post about why “these 36 words” turned “every single thing we’ve been doing in bail in America on its head.” Jurisdictions that have “grown accustomed to poor people in jail and only rich people out of jail pretrial,” Schnacke wrote, should “get ready to change.”Can we expect change to come to South Dakota anytime soon? I doubt it. Remember that the bail industry is big money in South Dakota GOP politics. The bail industry will not allow this to go away. They have become very effective working into the political system to protect their industry. A Mother Jones article from 2014 pointed to the work of ALEC and mentions Lederman in the article as proof of expanding this unconstitutional practice.
Next to Walmart and Bank of America, the bail industry was a small fish in ALEC, but ABC quickly climbed into leadership positions. ABC has written at least 11 ALEC "model bills" regarding bail; the most recent would vastly expand the business of bondsmen and bounty hunters by allowing courts to require a bond as a condition for early release from prison. Measures in this vein—which essentially turn bondsmen into private parole officers—have passed in Michigan, Mississippi, and South Dakota. In South Dakota, a parole-bond bill was championed by Rep. Dan Lederman, an ALEC member whose bail company claims more than 150 agents in eight states.I don't know if Lederman will be willing to let his lucrative and unconstitutional career go to the sidelines. I am pretty sure the rest of the ALEC lovers in South Dakota will listen to what ALEC tells them to do and if not ALEC, then lets not forget the money needed from Rushmore PAC. Maybe the court system will be able to correct this matter.