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Miami Bail Reform Plan On Hold After DeSantis Intervenes

For the past two years, a committee of representatives from Miami-Dade County, Fl.'s corrections department, homeless agency, and public defender and state attorney's offices worked on a plan to reform their system's bail policies. Just days after the Miami Herald detailed the plans for more pretrial releases of people with low incomes, Miami-Dade's chief judge, Nushin Sayfie, announced the plan had been shelved, in response to a press conference called by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to denounce the plan and tout a legislative package with tougher penalties for serious crimes, the Herald reports.

“Our pretrial justice improvement project focuses on public safety, and a key element of the project is that judges should be the determinants of whether or not an individual remains in jail on serious charges,” Sayfie said in a written statement. “Since the proposed legislation also touches on release criteria for serious crimes, as well as monetary bond schedules, it is prudent to hold off on implementation pending further guidance from our state lawmakers.” The state's legislature is set to convene starting March 7. Asked about bail reform in Miami-Dade during a press conference, DeSantis called the concept dangerous. “This package will ensure judges can’t go rogue and be releasing people,” DeSantis said. “All of the proposals I have heard along those lines I think would be dangerous for the people of Miami-Dade.” The proposed system would shift to assessing a defendant’s risk of skipping trial or committing another crime, based on criminal backgrounds and other metrics. Sayfie said the change would mean more defendants would end up before a judge after being taken to jail because many offenses would no longer be eligible for quick release after bail payments. “A person’s wealth has become the primary determinant of whether they will be released or detained before trial, instead of the likelihood they will flee or pose a threat to public safety,” Sayfie’s office said in a statement about the effort released last month. “The project team’s goal is and has always been to utilize evidence-based tools in order to improve public safety and ensure future court appearances, while ensuring that no one is jailed simply because they are poor.”


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