Critics: Bail reform measure approved by lawmakers a ‘get out of jail free card’

Hawaii may soon dramatically reduce penalties for non-violent crimes.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 4:11 PM HST|Updated: May. 4, 2022 at 5:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii may soon dramatically reduce penalties for non-violent crimes.

The state Legislature passed a bill this week that would allow those who commit certain offenses to leave custody without bail.

It’s known as the Cash Bail Reform bill and it could apply to those who are booked on non-violent Class C felonies and misdemeanors such as property damage, shoplifting, and theft.

Critics say it essentially creates a “get out of jail free” card.

“The public is already victimized by these repeat offenders and it’s just gonna get worse with the passage of this bill,” said retired Honolulu Police Department Deputy Chief John McCarthy.

McCarthy spent 45 years on the HPD force and in that time saw his fair share of recidivism.

He feels this bill will no doubt lead to a rise in crime.

“Now we’re gonna give them a free pass,” McCarthy said.

“They’re gonna be kind of snubbing it in our face like ‘what are you gonna do to me? you’re gonna arrest me and I’m gonna be out faster than you can finish your paperwork.”

But proponents of the reform say it’s an effort to reduce overcrowding in jail facilities.

Abd House Speaker Scott Saiki maintains offenders will still be held accountable.

“I know that there are concerns about the safety of the public, but the bill does require that the court continue to supervise anyone who is released,” Saiki said. “There will be supervision.”

But McCarthy is worried about the impact it’ll have on law enforcement, especially in regard to morale.

“For the police, you’re basically throwing your hands up again,” McCarthy said.

“You do all this work and what’s the result? Sometimes you’re gonna arrest this person once or twice on a shift, once every 24 hours.”

Supporters say this measure will also reduce the need for a new jail facility on Oahu.

“Prison construction is always a tough issue,” Saiki said.

“There’s always proposals to build a new facility, but you always face the issue of where do you build it. We need to get past that question before we commit funds to a new facility.”

McCarthy suggests that the focus should be on improving programs to help provide counseling and treatment for the offenders.

The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

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