I began my journey investigating our current bail system months ago with an eye to advocating for bail reform. I have read scores of articles and talked with numerous local officials learning just how the system works, how it impacts individuals and communities as a whole, and why the rising litigation and clamor for reform.
You can read a bit of what I learned in a series of articles published in The Tyler Loop. With much of my reading citing the need for bail reform, there was equally as much casting doubt on its efficacy and safety. No doubt about it! Bail reform is a complex, convoluted, and controversial issue. One that might lead many folks to throw up their hands exclaiming, “It’s impossible! No way! We don’t have the resources!” or any number of other exclamations testifying to the enormous effort required to establish meaningful bail reform. Yet, knowing the cost of the current system to individuals, our economy, and our communities, how can we not consider bail reform?
As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” We know better, are we going to do better?
During my research I spoke with Mr. Gary Pinkerton, our Smith County Pretrial Director, and he said, “Reform is important, but one of the big issues I see is that a lot goes back to that individual person. . .it is the mindset of the person involved.” Granted, Mr. Pinkerton was referring to incarcerated individuals. Yet, can we not apply his truths to ourselves – to each of us as individuals, collectively as a community, even as a governing board. Do we have the mindset to reform – to change that which we now know is flawed?
To that end, I encouraged our Smith County Commissioner’s Court to establish a special task force, comprised of local officials, community leaders, and concerned citizens, to study our current bail system with the goal of proposing meaningful reform measures and plans for piloting the implementation of those measures. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw and later Robert Kennedy: Some folks see things as they are and ask, Why? Others, see things as they could be and ask, Why not?
Will Smith County continue to wander in the weeds of “Why?” or chart a course for the “Why not?”