As opposition grows over bail reform bill, advocates say many fears are unfounded

Business owners are pressuring the governor to veto a bill that would eliminate bail for certain defendants.
Updated: May. 17, 2022 at 10:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Business owners are pressuring the governor to veto a bill that would eliminate bail for certain defendants, but some advocates worry that misinformation is clouding the debate.

Some brazen crimes prompted small business owners to speak out against the bill passed by the legislature last month.

Danny, owner of Ewa Pantry in Ewa Beach, said his door were busted in early Monday morning.

“They reversed the truck into it, and they took the ATM machine,” said Danny. “It’s scary, as a small business owner, you know, I lose sleep every night worrying about my store.”

Just three days before that, state Sen. Kurt Fevella said three other businesses in his district were hit with smash and grabs.

“[They] smashed subway, the ramen place in Ewa Town Center and also Genki Sushi,” said Fevella.

It’s crimes like these that inspired a rally at the State Capitol. This group is urging the governor to veto House Bill 1567.

The bill would allow defendants in certain non-violent crimes such as property damage, shoplifting, and theft to be released until their court dates without posting bail.

Opponents call it a get out of jail free card.

“We want this to stop because if it doesn’t stop, and this bill passes, guess what? Those guys are doing smash and grabs,” said Fevella. “When they get arrested, they’ll be let out with no bail.”

But the lawmaker who introduced the bill says that’s very unlikely.

State Rep. Scot Matayoshi said the bill carved out many types of defendants who would not qualify for no-bail release. And since judges would get the final say, smash and grab burglars would almost certainly be required to post bail.

“Driving a car into a restaurant, or to rob someplace, I would argue that they do pose a danger to the community because they’re willing to do something so reckless like that,” said Matayoshi. “So, things like habitual solicitation of prostitution or things like that, clearly there’s a strong risk of recidivism, and this bill should not apply.”

“Also, if it’s aggravated stalking, or arson, if they’re a danger to a person or the community, this bill will not apply.”

Supporters said it’s fairer to poor defendants and it would unclog the court system.

Kat Brady, coordinator of the Community Alliance on Prison, said that crime actually went down in states that enacted similar bail reform.

“New Jersey is a really good example,” said Brady. “They released a lot of people on pretrial, and their crime rate went down at about the same rate, so close to 20%.”

Brady said Hawaii needs more pretrial services not detention.

Gov. David Ige said he’s still considering the bill.

“We want to look at the reform passed a couple years ago and see the progress made,” said Ige. “Then just make an evaluation of what is contained in this new proposal.”

The governor has until June 25 to say whether he will veto the bill.

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