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HONOLULU, HI – Almost a year and a half ago, reality T.V. stars Duane “Dog” Chapman and his wife Beth announced that they were putting their popular show, Dog and Beth: On the Hunt, on hold while they geared up to work on bail reforms and Beth’s campaign to head the Professional Bail Agents of the United States (PBUS). Since that time Beth has won the election and they have kept their word travelling the country working for safe, common sense bail and criminal justice reforms. Now the duo has their sights set on California as the Assembly’s Public Safety committee considers a bail reform package, Assembly Bill 42 and Senate Bill 10, which critics contend will put the public at great risk.
“The basic problem here is that you are allowing criminals, on a mass scale, to get out of jail free with no accountability to return to court to face their charges,” said Duane “Dog” Chapman. “In my career I have caught thousands of defendants who skipped bail or reoffended while they were out on bail. I have seen this play out so many times it makes my heart sick. Policy makers start to think that the poor offender is the victim and advance these policies which help the “poor, innocent” criminal and in the end it is the truly innocent and law abiding citizen who is hurt.”
Duane Chapman who is known for his “tough love” approach with offenders is referring to the portion of the bill which requires judges to use a risk assessment and the “least restrictive” approach when granting a bond unless the state can prove that the offender shouldn’t be out for free. Beth Chapman, who has spent three decades in the business and represents professional bail agents on a national scale, also contends that the risk assessments don’t work in truly identifying who is a potential threat and who will show up for court. She asserts the job of the court is to ensure justice is served through a trial or negotiations and, for over 200 hundred years, bondsmen have played an integral part in that process.
“The approach in these bills require society to blindly trust a lot of people who have been accused and charged with crimes,” stated Beth Chapman. “This is not a new concept, it is something which has been tried in many states and jurisdictions. However, it is one which simply does not work. The purpose of bail is to ensure the defendant returns to court and that they have skin in the game. Having a bondsman with a financial interest in the defendant’s appearance provides the security that they will show up and also that they will not re-offend while out on bail.”
Both point to several examples across the United States where these bail reforms have endangered the public. Most notably was a case in New Jersey, which recently reformed it’s bail system to what California is considering, where a convicted child predator re-offended by trying to lure a 12 year old girl to his house for “sexual things”. The state’s new policy determined that he was not a risk and he was allowed to go home for free. The case was such a disaster that the local Police Chief of Little Egg, where the incident took place, resorted to Facebook post in order to warn the local citizens of the danger to their children because of this policy.
“There is, at present, an allegation that this subject has re-offended with a local child,” Little Egg Police Chief John Buzby said. “An arrest has been made, and all the appropriate charges have been filed, but the new bail reform protocol has determined that he does not pose a threat, and he was released by a Superior Judge this afternoon.”
The police chief also stated that the elimination of bail has now removed a safety valve that once offered a possibility to keep convicted sex offenders behind bars on new charges. Dog and Beth state that this is one in a litany of examples where these types of policies and “risk assessments” have failed law abiding citizens.
The trip to California by the Chapmans is being hosted by Assemblyman Heath Flora, a member of the public safety committee. Assemblyman Flora is an effective advocate for public safety and fiscal responsibility and stated that he looks forward to working with the industry, and the Chapmans, as these reforms are being considered.
“As legislators we must look at these issues through a lens of how they will affect the citizens of our great state,” stated Flora. “It is imperative that if we advance a policy it is one which will not put our citizens in greater harm. This is a large component of the public safety process and one which will affect every aspect of it, from the offender, to the law enforcement officer, to the judge, and ultimately to the individual citizen. I look forward to gleaning the experience and advice from two people who have spent decades in this industry and I hope that my colleagues will take that opportunity as well as we debate this very serious issue.”
The Assembly Public Safety Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday morning at 8:30am in room 126 of the State Capitol.