Law enforcement across Southeastern Massachusetts, and even the country, continue to battle the court system. While the problem is serious, the solution is not so simple.
You don’t have to look far down the news cycle to find one. An armed robbery suspect is arrested by a local police department and is let out to be arrested a few weeks later, or even sooner, for the same crime he or she was initially arrested for. Even worse when it involves a dangerous and violent suspect. Fall River Police ran into something similar this past week.
Tyannah Martinez who had eight outstanding warrants with four felonies including Reckless Endangerment of a Child, Assault Dangerous Weapon, Larceny from a person, and B&E Daytime – Felony Larceny from a building, was captured by FRPD after being on their ten most wanted list. In no time, she was back on the street. If this concerns you, be prepared for it to get worse. Yes. Worse.
In August of 2017, the Massachusetts High Court ruled unanimously in Brangan v. Commonwealth that bail for poor defendants must be affordable. Bail on serious offenses are being reduced to hundreds of dollars and sometimes even nothing at all. This ruling has left many residents outraged and demanding that suspects of serious crimes be locked up. Don’t expect to see this ruling change, however. The practice of reducing bail is increasing, not decreasing, and remember, the ruling was unanimous.
Then there is the capacity of prisons.
In the first quarter of 2017, the Bristol County House of Corrections facility had an average daily population of 1,277 with a designed capacity of 566. Four other counties were over capacity, but no county was worse. (prison capacity report) You can build more jails, but the cost alone for the structure is roughly $100 million. After that comes expensive operating costs.
One of the answers to overcrowded prisons for some has been the idea of not giving prison time to low-level drug offenders. The problem with that is the practice has already begun. See how many drug offenders and DUI suspects are on their third, fourth, or fifth offense or more and not incarcerated. Considering many crimes, especially robberies, are drug-related, the system could try more treatment, but the offender truly has to want to get clean and beds in treatment facilities are already difficult to come by.
As frustrating as “catch and release” is for both police departments continuing to capture suspects and citizens who want reduced crime in their community, don’t expect to see the practice go away any time soon. If anything, expect it to get worse.