MISSED CHANCES – THE GERALD BOYES CASE
Gerald Boyes Jr. missed two meetings with his parole officer.
It was his second time on parole for robbery in Florida. He’d been sent back to prison before because he kept getting arrested. A warrant was issued.
Little else happened — until detectives were called to his father’s home in rural Kentucky this past April.
His father had been bludgeoned with a hammer in the back yard. His father’s longtime partner lay dead on the floor inside, surrounded by blood.
Detectives tried to reach Boyes to inform him of the deaths. They grew suspicious when he didn’t return their calls, said McCracken County, Kentucky, Sheriff Jon Hayden.
A quick check revealed that Boyes was wanted for a parole violation in Florida. McCracken County Detective Captain Matt Carter and his partner were driving to Florida to try to find Boyes when one of them ran his name through a database that includes the names of people who sell items at pawn shops. Boyes, they said, had just sold his father’s distinctive Harley Davidson wallet — which was missing from the crime scene.
They made a U-turn and began driving north, toward the pawn shop outside Chicago.
“That was huge,” Carter said. “That was one big piece of evidence that tied him to the double homicide and also gave us his whereabouts.”
He said that same database also showed that Boyes had pawned jewelry near Chicago a week or two prior — within days of his violation warrant being issued.
“I don’t really have faith in the system at all. There were some serious missteps there.”
The database, Carter said, is updated frequently. It might have been possible to find the Chicago-areas sale before the killings.
Florida parole officers don’t have access to that database, which is run by a private company. Hayden said he paid about $1,200 for his officers to access it during one year.
Boyes’ supervising officer, who was also responsible for monitoring more than 50 other people, “did not have knowledge the offender was in the Chicago area at the time,” said Alberto Moscoso, spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections.
Records from the department show that Boyes’ parole officer did a records check to see if Boyes had been arrested again. They show she visited his home and left a voicemail on his cell phone. They show no other efforts to find him until April 16 — when he died in a confrontation with police in Antioch, Illinois.
“I don’t really have faith in the system at all,” said Don Potter, Boyes’ stepbrother. “There were some serious missteps there.”
Police found Boyes in a rental car near a bar in northern Illinois. Officials said police fired on Boyes as he raised a gun to his head and fired a single shot.
Had he survived, Sheriff Hayden said, he “absolutely” would have been charged in the double killing.
IN PENNSYLVANIA, SIMILAR STORIES
There have been similar cases in Western Pennsylvania.
Frederick Harris III, who’s awaiting trial on charges that he dismembered his mother and her husband, eluded arrest on a parole violation warrant for about nine months prior to the 2014 killings.
That same year, Kerrese Lawrence, who was on probation for a drug charge, was arrested for new crimes and bailed out. Officials encountered him multiple times in court and during a police stop but didn’t detain him. Instead, they scheduled violation hearings — one of which he skipped.
That spring, police charged him with killing his pregnant girlfriend. They obtained a warrant after the woman’s death.
It took Allegheny County officials about 82 days on average to catch probation or parole violators under their supervision, according to a Post-Gazette analysis of court data. It was slower than all but five counties in the paper’s analysis.
Statistics show that people who commit crimes often reoffend. About three out of every four people arrested on a felony had prior arrests, according to one study of state court data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Yet there is little research looking at probation and parole violators and the time it takes agencies to track them.
Studies dating back to at least the 1980s have shown that the swiftness and certainty of punishment are key to reducing new crimes.
University of Wyoming professor Eric Wodahl found in research published in recent years that, if handled correctly, punishments that involve community service or electronic monitoring can be just as effective as jail time.
“Immediacy does matter,” Wodahl said of consequences. “For them to be the most effective, they need to be certain that it’s going to happen.”
Allegheny County Sheriff’s Sgt. Doug Clark logs locations the deputies visit each day, noting where they found fugitives and where they struck out.
The Allegheny County Adult Probation Office does not have anyone dedicated to finding violators. Instead, it relies on the county sheriff’s office to track them down.
But the sheriff’s office also has to track down people wanted on other warrants issued by the courts — such as those issued for people who skipped their trials or dodged hearings for failing to pay child support.
Estimates put the number of outstanding warrants somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000, but Sheriff William P. Mullen said he’s never received a reliable number.
The sheriff’s office has 12 deputies and three supervisors dedicated to finding fugitives. It’s common for them to get pulled to help guard courtrooms when others are on vacation, especially during the summer, when some veteran officers can take three weeks off. The sheriff said shifting some deputies from the fugitive offices to courtrooms reduces overtime.
“We’re really scrambling to stay under budget,” he said.
Police officers can also arrest people on probation violation warrants. All officers have access to a national database that tracks warrants, but Mullen said officers in some local departments fail to run those checks on people they encounter. It’s not unheard of, he said, for deputies to arrest someone on a violation warrant and learn that they had interactions with other officers a few days prior.
The sheriff said he’s pushed for the creation of a county-wide database that would allow his detectives to see more information about stops made by other departments.
But such a system wouldn’t completely solve the problem. Fugitives can leave the county or state.
WHEN FUGITIVES CROSS STATE LINES
Antonio Covington eluded arrest on a Georgia probation violation warrant for five months, despite being arrested in North Carolina where he was known to spend time.
Authorities never found him — until police suspect he killed a man in Charlotte, N.C.
He’s not the only example of someone who left the state and became a repeat offender elsewhere. A man wanted on an Illinois parole violation warrant was charged this spring with shooting a man in Iowa. A Pennsylvania man eluded authorities for three years despite multiple arrests in North Carolina.
Delays sometimes occur when people are sentenced in one county and supervised in another.
These stories highlight the ways in which probationers and parolees avoid detection by leaving the states in which they were convicted — sometimes with little effort to hide their identity.
Covington’s Georgia case dates to July 30, 2013, when someone called 911 to report that a man was driving erratically. A police officer stopped the car and found multiple drugs and guns, which Covington was prohibited from owning.
Covington later pleaded guilty to gun and drug violations, and a Gwinnett County judge ordered him to spend time at a drug treatment facility and then participate in an aftercare treatment program as a condition of probation.
Covington got kicked out of the aftercare program July 7, 2015 “due to non-attendance.” A probation officer obtained a warrant a month and a half later.
Delays sometimes occur when people are sentenced in one county and supervised in another. Covington’s latest address was in Fulton County, about a half hour away. Violation paperwork for someone supervised in Gwinnett County would have to be completed by a Gwinnett County officer, according to Georgia officials.
In the interim, Covington was arrested in North Carolina for illegally possessing a prescription drug and posted bail in the case. The Georgia probation violation warrant makes no mention of North Carolina or his new arrest.
Bert Flewellen, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, said he was not permitted to discuss individual cases under state law.
He said probation officers do have the resources to conduct records checks on the people under their supervision and do so “at random, for-cause, and at designated milestones during supervision.”
Probation officers can file additional paperwork in court if they learn of new arrests after a violation warrant has been issued. That paperwork was not filed in Covington’s case.
Covington appeared again March 31 of this year, when police say surveillance cameras spotted him and another man dumping 19-year-old Ernest Cash Jr. at a Charlotte, North Carolina, hospital. Cash, who had been shot, died the next day.
Police later charged Covington and another man with killing Cash.
HOW TO CATCH A FUGITIVE
The probation department in Hennepin County, Minn., one of the top-performing jurisdictions, is run by a former law enforcement officer.
“What keeps me up at night is whether or not [violators] are out committing a crime, so this is a very high priority for our department,” said Chester Cooper, who worked for years in the local sheriff’s office before he joined the Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Cooper and his predecessor created a position that exists in few others departments: They have one officer whose sole job is to work with other local agencies to track violators.
Probation Officer Beth Heidmann, who works in Hennepin County, Minn., spends her days collecting background information on probation and parole violators and coordinating their arrests with local agencies. (Courtney Perry for the Post-Gazette)
Officer Beth Heidmann works out of the local sheriff’s office. Each day, she gathers a list of fugitives and digs through their case files, social media accounts and other sources to find leads on their whereabouts. She passes the information along to other officers who will do the actual arrests.
She has access to dozens of members of the sheriff’s office, members of a federal fugitive task force and anyone she can contact at other departments.
Here, it takes officials an average of 43 days to arrest someone on a county probation violation warrant.
“I’m concerned about the 43, so we need to work on that,” said Cooper, the director, after he learned the results of the Post-Gazette analysis.
Before Heidmann’s position existed, the office relied on two officers with few resources to catch the fugitives. Cooper and his predecessor abandoned that system out of concerns for the officers’ safety.
That system rejected in Minnesota is similar to one that is currently being used in Pima County, Ariz., where officials take more than twice as long to capture fugitives on average.
Ken McCulloch, director of field services for Pima County Adult Probation, said he didn’t think it was fair to compare his department to many others in the country. Pima County officers can arrest people without a warrant and often issue warrants when they don’t know the whereabouts of someone they’re supervising, he said. Hennepin County officials said they like to reserve warrants only for people whose whereabouts are unknown or who are especially dangerous.
“What keeps me up at night is whether or not [violators] are out committing a crime.”
Among the people tasked with finding fugitives in Pima County is Officer Mark Echavarry. He’s part of a two-person team that works to arrest people who are being supervised for domestic violence cases. Their positions are grant-funded and their resources are limited.
Echavarry and his partner work alone in an old, rusted sedan that was seized as part of a prior investigation. They don’t have lights and sirens. They don’t have bars in the back of the car, so if anyone fights arrest they have to call local police to take them to jail.
He spends some of his time tracking down violators, but also has to juggle meetings and compliance checks. They also have to do background work before heading out on cases.
On one day in May, he only had time to make one stop, where he caught a probation violator. But he had at least four new warrants waiting for him when he returned to the office.
Echavarry says he’s asked for more resources in the past but hasn’t received them.
“It’s a sticking point with us,” he said.
FAILURE TO ISSUE WARRANTS QUICKLY
While research shows rapid consequences can help prevent probationers or parolees from committing new crimes, officers will at times hold off on filing warrants. They hope the people they are supervising will start following the rules again and avoid jail.
But that doesn’t always work.
Francisco Fernandez, 23, missed a drug test in November, officials said, and met in person with his probation officer the following month. Fernandez, who was on probation for a drug case, then missed four more drug tests and moved without the permission of his probation officer, according to court records.
“Jumping on that warrant immediately, for a relatively low-level offender, may not get the benefit.”
He later told a police officer “he hasn’t reported because he wanted to get his [medical] marijuana card first,” according to a police report.
The Pima County Adult Probation Department’s policy gives officers 90 days to try to locate many probationers after their last face-to-face contact with them. For people who have been deemed especially likely to reoffend, the window is tighter — three days.
“Jumping on that warrant immediately, for a relatively low-level offender, may not get the benefit,” McCulloch said, noting that some people might need time to get sober or do other things for their well-being.
One hundred seventeen days passed before an officer filed a request to revoke Fernandez’s probation.
During that time, the officer visited addresses for Ferndandez, left a voicemail for him and sent him a certified letter.
A week after the request, on April 12, the court issued the warrant. Warrants like the one issued to Fernandez normally go to the department’s absconder team. Fernandez’s officer decided to hold onto the warrant because he “was hearing things that the probationer was in the vicinity and might turn up,” McCulloch said. “Looking at the case notes, I don’t see any [indications] that he was checking other residences or physically following up.”
Police found Fernandez April 27, when they responded to a call that a 7-year-old boy had been shot at an apartment building. The boy, the nephew of Fernandez’s girlfriend, survived.
Fernandez gave differing accounts of the shooting during an interview with police. During the last one, he said, “I think the gun was loaded and I accidentally pulled it,” according to a police report.
McCulloch said he was comfortable with the way his officer handled the Fernandez case.
“He was kind of doing a wait and see thing.”
Setting bail is a difficult task for judges. They must try to foretell whether the defendant is likely to commit another crime, hurt someone or skip out on the next court date.
Now comes help in a distinctly modern form: an algorithm.
After two years of testing, the formula, developed at a cost of $1.2 million by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, is being rolled out to 21 more jurisdictions, including states like Arizona and New Jersey and cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh, the foundation announced on Friday. The algorithm gives defendants two scores — one for their likelihood of committing a crime and one for their risk of failing to appear in court — and flags those with an elevated risk of violence.
In most of the country, there is little science behind the bail decisions made thousands of times a day by magistrates, commissioners and judges. In some places, bail is based on the charges alone; in others, court officials may weigh a host of factors like criminal record, employment status and substance-abuse history. Hidden biases against the poor and minorities can easily creep into the decision-making. And a growing body of evidence indicates that the nation’s bail system keeps many low-risk defendants incarcerated before trial, while those who may pose a higher risk are released because they have the money to make bail.
Many law enforcement groups and defense lawyers have supported the use of scientifically validated risk assessments, but fewer than 10 percent of jurisdictions use them, partly because of cost.
The Arnold Foundation eventually plans to make the tool, called the Public Safety Assessment, available to any jurisdiction.
The effort comes amid new scrutiny of municipal courts after a federal report on the predatory, racially biased practices of the court system in Ferguson, Mo., and a growing bipartisan consensus that reducing the nation’s heavy reliance on jails and prisons should be a priority. In developing the risk assessment, the Arnold Foundation went beyond the typical philanthropic functions of conducting studies and awarding grants in the hope of achieving concrete, widespread change. Its assessment is designed to be more economical than existing risk assessments and effective regardless of location.
The foundation is based in Houston and is dedicated to using evidence-based practices in the public sector.
The Arnold assessment has been met with some skepticism because it does not take into account characteristics that judges and prosecutors normally consider relevant: the defendant’s employment status, community ties or history of drug and alcohol abuse. Instead, after crunching data on one and a half million criminal cases, researchers found that fewer than 10 objective factors — basically age, the criminal record and previous failures to appear in court, with more recent offenses given greater weight — were the best predictors of a defendant’s behavior. Factoring in other considerations did not improve accuracy.
Some initial skeptics, including R. Andrew Murray, the district attorney of Mecklenburg County, N.C., which includes Charlotte, have slowly warmed to the assessment. Charlotte was one of the few jurisdictions in the country that already used a risk assessment tool, but it included a face-to-face interview. The Arnold assessment eliminates the interview.
“I’m expected to do everything I can to keep the public safe,” Mr. Murray said. “If we’re letting more people out earlier in the proceeding, based on more limited information, I’m going to be concerned.”
But, he said, after a yearlong trial, Charlotte’s jail population is down almost 20 percent. Crime has not increased, he said, and many poor defendants have been spared the damaging effects of incarceration, including unemployment and homelessness.
“It’s saved the community a lot of tax dollars, there’s not been an ill effect, and we’ve kept a lot of individuals from going through that turmoil,” Mr. Murray said.
A defendant’s risk scores are given to the judge before bail conditions are set. At times the scores have bolstered prosecutors’ arguments that youthful, baby-faced defendants can be riskier than they appear, Mr. Murray said.
Scott Bales, the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, said the state was expanding use of the assessment from four counties and one city to all 15 counties after judges had clamored for change.
“We heard from judges that defendants were held, pending the resolutions of their charges, for longer than the sentence would have been, and that seemed fundamentally unfair,” Chief Justice Bales said. “They didn’t have information to make an assessment, and were relying on rule-of-thumb or prior practices without really knowing whether those were useful guides or not” when setting bail.
Chief Justice Bales said the assessment tool could combat implicit bias, the invisible set of assumptions based on race, class and other factors that can come into play. Some studies have shown that black defendants are given higher bail amounts than similar white defendants.
Fewer than 10 percent of all jurisdictions — including the District of Columbia, Charlotte and the state of Kentucky — use formal risk assessments, said Anne Milgram, the vice president for criminal justice for the Arnold Foundation and the former attorney general of New Jersey. Such assessments are costly to conduct and are sometimes discounted by judges because they depend on information reported by defendants. Moreover, she said, the foundation’s researchers found that many jurisdictions had made tweaks to their assessments, adding or removing questions without testing the effect on accuracy.
A defendant’s risk scores are given to the judge before bail conditions are set, and are meant to augment, not replace, the judge’s discretion, Ms. Milgram said.
Kentucky has used a risk-assessment tool for decades, and is a leader among states when it comes to court appearance rates and low recidivism. Two years ago, it switched to using the Arnold assessment. Tara Klute, the head of Pretrial Services, said that although verifying criminal records was time consuming, particularly for out-of-state offenses, the Arnold assessment required less staffing and eliminated factors that were subjective, irrelevant or even discriminatory. Historically, she said, defendants had been given credit for such things as having a telephone or being married.
Ms. Klute said that after 20 years in the pretrial field, she was not surprised to learn that certain factors that were generally considered highly relevant to defendant behavior, such as drug abuse, did not turn out to be particularly predictive. According to informal, internal data analysis of drug test results in her own office, she said, “the people who were testing dirty actually had a better appearance rate than the people who weren’t using.”
A version of this article appears in print on June 28, 2015, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Judges Replacing Conjecture With Formula for Bail.
A federal class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges San Francisco’s bail system is unconstitutional.
The Washington, D.C.-based civil rights organization bringing the lawsuit is hopeful that it could not only topple the “money bail” system in San Francisco, but also across the state.
“State law actually requires City and County of San Francisco to use the generic bail schedule,” said Phil Telfeyan, head of Equal Justice Under Law. “Our lawsuit is focused on San Francisco, but the impact could be broader.”
‘People are faced with this coercive choice: Go into tremendous amounts of debt, plead guilty to a crime you may not have committed or wait in jail and lose everything that’s dear and meaningful in your life.’
San Francisco Deputy Public Defender
The suit (read below) was initially brought on behalf of two women arrested in San Francisco this week, but Telfeyan is asking the court to certify a class action on behalf of “all arrestees unable to pay for their release pursuant to Defendants’ fixed bail schedule who are or who will become in the custody of the City and County of San Francisco.”
Prosecutors discharged the cases against both named plaintiffs — Riana Buffin and Crystal Patterson — meaning they were both released and aren’t currently facing charges, said Telfeyan and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.
Buffin was arrested Monday under suspicion of grand theft. She stayed in jail for two days until her case was discharged. Patterson was arrested Tuesday under suspicion of assault with force causing great bodily injury. Her case was also discharged — a matter of hours after she paid a bail agent $1,500, or 1 percent of her $150,000 bail.
Because she made that deal, she owes the bail agent a full 10 percent of the bond, or $15,000.
“Had she been able to wait another six hours or 12 hours in jail,” Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin said, “she wouldn’t have had to go into debt. The problem that we see in Ms. Patterson’s case and in so many of my clients’ cases is that people are faced with this coercive choice: Go into tremendous amounts of debt, plead guilty to a crime you may not have committed or wait in jail and lose everything that’s dear and meaningful in your life.”
A district attorney’s spokesman said prosecutors are awaiting further investigation into both cases in order to pursue charges.
The president of the California Bail Agents Association called the lawsuit “misleading.”
“We’ve already seen in California the crime rates have gone up,” said Maggie Kreins, who is proprietor of Maggie’s Bail Bonds in Long Beach in addition to heading the association. “It’s getting scary out there, and they’re making it so nobody’s going to be held accountable for anything anymore.”
Kreins said bail agents have a proven record of “bringing people back to court, and bringing justice to victims.”
“When these individuals don’t go to court, who’s going to go look for them?” she said. “The taxpayers are going to have to pay two or three times to arrest the same person.”
But in San Francisco, there’s widespread agreement among law enforcement leaders for doing away with the “money bail” system.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi filed a declaration in support of the lawsuit and joined Telfeyan and Boudin in announcing it. He said between 75 and 85 percent of San Francisco’s jail population is pretrial at any given time. About one-third are there because they can’t afford $5,000 bail.
Mirkarimi said if people are not a safety or flight risk but are nonetheless taken from their families and their jobs, “this furthers the destruction and ruination of people and families in San Francisco.”
Former Chief Deputy Sheriff Vicki Hennessy — who is challenging Mirkarimi for the top job — said in an email to KQED that “the current system is inherently unfair.”
District Attorney George Gascón said he’s been working for years to replace the monetary bail, “not only in San Francisco but more broadly, hopefully around the state.”
“Money bail doesn’t necessarily deal with risk,” he said. “You can have people that are very risky but are financially capable of posting bail, and they’re going to get released. And you’ve got people on the other end that may not be a risk, but they may not have the monetary ability to post bail, and they remain in custody for days, weeks and sometimes longer.”
Gascón said he’s been working with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to develop a predictive tool that could inform judges about the likelihood any given arrestee would reoffend, hurt someone or fail to show up for his or her court date. He hopes to introduce the system into San Francisco courts by early next year. He said he wasn’t in support of ditching “money bail” without a comprehensive system to replace it.
“Just simply taking money without a validated risk assessment tool would be a horrible mistake,” he said.
via – http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/10/29/class-action-suit-against-san-francisco-seeks-to-end-use-of-cash-bail-system
A Maine lawmaker has drafted a bill that if passed, would replace the state’s cash bail system with a risk assessment model.
The bill is similar to one that was passed by New Jersey last year, he said, and could reduce the annual operating costs of many of the state’s lock ups; housing fewer inmates should, in theory, save taxpayers money.
The idea behind it is simple- free up some of the jails’ bed space by allowing low-risk, low-level offenders to be released without needing to post bail bonds.
Prosecutors disagree with that theory and say it’s a bad, bad idea.
Less likely to go to court
Defendants who are released without needing to post bail bonds have a much higher failure to appear rate than those who do, thy said, and when the failure to appear rate climbs, that leads to increased court administrative costs. It also leads to an increase in warrants and that can strain the resources of police departments.
They believe that many of the state’s pre-trial inmates are behind bars for a reason; they have either re-offended or have violated their previous terms of release.
Law enforcement officials agree that while a bail, and jail reform is needed, this is not the way to do it.
Rewarding the rich, punishing the poor
Some allege the current bail system unfairly targets poor defendants, most of whom can’t afford to post bail. When someone is charged with a low-level crime but can’t afford to post bond, they are often held behind bars for weeks or months on end.
This can lead to a loss of income and in many cases, the loss of a job. Proponents of bail reform say that passing it
The conversation surrounding reform
Another component of the mix relates to public safety; while freeing up bed space may save taxpayers some money there is concern that the mass release of pre-trial defendants could lead to upticks in crime rate.
On the other hand, county jails say they are expecting a mass budget shortfall before the close of 2015 and are already asking the legislature to support emergency funding for their facilities. The governor said he doesn’t support the request.
The risk assessment proposal
Supporters of the bill say this won’t be a wide-reaching get out of jail free card for all pretrial defendants. Each will need to be evaluated to determine whether their release will pose a risk to public safety and whether they are likely to return to court when they are supposed to.
Although it’s still too soon to know whether the bill will pass, supporters say that if nothing else, it’s spurred some healthy discussion.
via – thebailblog.com