On Nov. 21, the nation looked on in horror to see a man drive through the Waukesha parade, killing six people and injuring dozens more.
Then, not long after, it was revealed that he was out on a $1,000 cash bail after allegedly running over the mother of his child.
Time and time again this story plays out, not just with Darrell Brooks, who has been charged in the Waukesha deaths.
Time and time again, someone who is out on bail commits another crime. In many cases, even then they are able to get out again, on another bond.
Legislation has been introduced in Madison to address this issue.
The Republican-authored bills would require a $10,000 minimum bond for defendants who have previously committed a felony or violent misdemeanor, bar judges from setting an unsecured bond or releasing without bail someone previously convicted of bail jumping, and require the Wisconsin Department of Justice to create a “bond transparency report” detailing crime and bond conditions.
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To be clear, the bail system is an important part of our criminal justice system. A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. All individuals charged with a crime need the opportunity to prove their innocence — not just those who can afford it.
With that said, there needs to be a real system in place to protect the public particularly in cases involving a violent offender charged with a new crime.
Following the Waukesha tragedy, a group of Milwaukee taxpayers filed a complaint with Gov. Tony Evers against Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, triggering a process that could end with Evers removing Chisholm from office. That complaint was filed because the $1,000 bail came from an attorney in Chisholm’s office. Ultimately, Attorney General Josh Kaul said the voters should choose whether to remove Chisholm from office.
While the governor and attorney general want to leave the election up to voters, the attorney general should still take a lead on evaluating bail bond discretion throughout the state.
Minor nonviolent offenses don’t need to be treated like violent offenses. But there needs to be consequences for crimes committed.
The Waukesha tragedy may be what is behind the urgent push for bail reform. But it’s just the case that has gotten the most publicity. Hopefully the magnitude of that tragedy can help garner bipartisan support for change.