Every now and then my newsfeed will drop some gem which after a quick glance will catch my attention. A few days ago (according to this publishing date anyway) I came across an article by Tucker Carlson, the firebrand of primetime TV who puts his commentary out for FOX News. In the article titled “Tucker Carlson: Normal people don’t want criminal justice reform, they want criminal justice enforcement” he makes no qualm about his theory concerning bail reform. I could question as to who he would claim to be normal? I am not a braggadocios person but I would consider my self to be somewhat normal. According to the article which is basically a transcription of a segment of his nightly show, the central tenet of Carlson’s argument is that New York state’s new bail reform policy will put more innocent New Yorkers in danger of predators and criminals. And who does Carlson point to at the beginning of his rant? You guessed it, the very poster person of the bail reform movement, Grafton Thomases.
Is this what passes for news on Fox News? Is this the best that primetime news/opinion personality can muster for Fox News? I have long disregarded Fox News from serious commentary and this serves as to a sample of why. I believe that Carlson is trying to make the point that bail reforms would make more people like Thomas more of a threat to society. The idea of more dangerous, mentally unstable people running around is, of course, is an idea we should not stand for. However, Carlson is lacking to inform the readers and listeners that in the case sited the system is working. In the article that is supposed to be proof positive of the failures of bail reform, it does not mention that Thomas committed the heinous acts against the community while out on bail. So that begs the question, why even link to that article? Is this just another case of Fox News race-baiting and scaring their viewers? There’s a reason why Americans distrust the media and this is just building their case.
I do not know Carlson’s bio nor do I care to look it up. But I would assume that anyone who has any legal or journalistic training should know better than to put this type of nonsense out on the internet. For the curious person who doesn’t understand the beginnings of the judicial process let me give the readers digest version.
After an arrest, a person is usually afforded the opportunity to pay some type of cash (bail) in lieu of sitting in prison before their trial date. The amount of money may vary depending upon a number of factors such as type and severity of the crime, previous arrests, previous convictions, failures to appear for previous court appearances, the dangerousness of the accused and community safety and other items. State laws will also influence how much and other minor details behind the amount of bail. Carlson should know that the purpose of bail is only to guarantee the accused will actually show up in court. It is not meant to be a deterrent to crime or punish the accused or paying off a fine. When we lose sight of this we are in for a lot of trouble and abuses will inevitably arise.
The case for bail reform has been made ad nauseam. The ACLU and Vera Institute have demonstrated that poor communities are overrepresented in the prison system and much of this has to do with the exorbitant fees that surround the incarceration system.
The terrible case of Grafton Thomas doesn’t point to the failures of the criminal justice system, or bail reform it points to a society that would rather incarcerate out mentally ill than treat them. It is alleged that for 20 years this man suffered from mental illness. I wonder how many times was he arrested or kicked out of shelters, or had his medication reduced. It points to a system where we would rather humiliate the homeless by over-policing them rather than treating, feeding and housing them. It points to a system where the affluent are simply uncomfortable with looking at poverty and the mentally ill and want to shudder them off to a place where they will no longer menace their eyes nor remind them of the unfair system that takes their tax dollars to succeed.
Tucker Carlson wants you to look at Thomas and be afraid, to be very, very afraid of the boogeyman who is roaming your streets. I, however, would like you to think about Kalief Browder. He was a 16-year-old kid who was accused and arrested for stealing a pocketbook. Unable to pay $10,000 bond (bail) he languished in New York’s Rikers Island for 3 long years. Two of those years he was in solitary confinement, where according to the family attorney, he had mice crawling on him for much of that time. After the state decided to drop the charges, he returned to his neighborhood a broken man of 22 years of age. Unable to cope with the abuses he suffered from the conditions, inmate and guard abuse he soon committed suicide. All over a case of a stolen purse, which the state decided, eventually not to prosecute. Browder and thousands of more people should not suffer mental and emotional and physical affliction over trivial cases, such as the stealing of pocketbooks. The polls on bail reform are split and fluctuate often. Certainly, reforms need adjustment but siting the Grafton Thomas was over the top, even for FOX News.
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