HONOLULU (KHON2) — A proposal approved by state lawmakers on Tuesday is raising concerns that Hawaii’s crime rate could go even higher. A bail reform bill sent to the governor for approval would allow those arrested for non-violent crimes, including felonies, to be released without having to pay bail.
Lawmakers said clearly there are changes needed in the bail system, and this proposal should also save the state some money.
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Supporters of the proposal said the current bail system is unfair to those who can’t afford to pay their bail and wind up in jail as they wait for their court hearing. That has also led to the jail getting overcrowded.
So if the governor approved the proposal, those who commit non-violent crimes, including Class C felonies, will be released as long as they’re not considered habitual offenders. The president of the police officers’ union said this will lead to more property crimes.
“If they are being mandated to be released, what do you think they’re going to be doing the very next day when they get out? They’re going to go and burglarize another business and then it continues,” said SHOPO President Robert Cavaco.
He points out that including felonies in the proposal is especially troubling.
“Because when you talk about class C felonies, you’re talking about burglaries for businesses,” said Cavaco “You’re talking about people stealing your car. You’re talking about theft in the second degree, which is any theft more than $750.”
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said those who make bail are just as likely to commit another crime as someone who is released on their own. So he doesn’t believe that the change would lead to more crime.
“Is either system perfect? No, is this new system?” said Sen. Karl Rhoads. “We hope that it’s more perfect than the old system in the sense that it saves us a bunch of money. But I would be surprised if the crime rates went up as a result of it.”
ACLU Hawaii, which is pushing for bail reform, said the change does not go far enough because it has a whole list of exceptions. In a statement it said “In effect, many people who have been accused, but not convicted of any crime, will continue to remain behind bars simply because they cannot afford cash bail.”
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We asked the governor if he plans to sign the bill into law. A spokeswoman says the bill must first go to legal, policy, and departmental review before he decides.