Bacon Bits: What Happens In Fairfax Should Stay in Fairfax

Get out of jail free. Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve T. Descano formally announced Monday that his office will no longer seek cash bail, claiming that it exacerbates inequalities between rich and poor, reports The Washington Post. Poor people find it harder to post bail and end up languishing behind bars until trial. Sometimes they lose jobs, housing, and child custody rights as a result. Says Descano: “It creates a two-tiered system of justice — one for the rich and one for everyone else. It exacerbates existing racial inequalities.” In cases when defendants might pose a risk to the community, his office will continue to recommend no bond.

I’m not saying Descano is wrong. Perhaps the practice of requiring bail does contribute to mass incarceration, and perhaps it does do more harm than good. One should always question government practices, and the criminal justice system is no exception. I’d like to see the numbers, though. The WaPo provides none, and I have zero faith in the WaPo to present data that runs against its social-justice narrative.

Even better… Don’t put people in jail in the first place. As it happens, Descano does provide some numbers in an op-ed published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Virginia’s state prison population has grown by 235% since 1983, he writes. Despite constituting 20% of the state population, black Virginians account for 53% of the prison population. To combat what he describes as “racial and socioeconomic inequities rife within Virginia’s criminal justice system,” he says, his office recently announced that it will no longer rely upon mandatory minimum sentences in plea deals. Fairfax County prosecutors should seek alternatives to incarceration wherever possible. He’d like to extend those practice statewide through legislation.

Perhaps it is possible to reverse mass incarceration and keep communities safe. But the numbers Descano provides tell us nothing. One reason that there are more blacks in prison is that blacks commit more crimes (mostly against other blacks). One should consider the theoretical possibility — call me crazy — that emptying prisons of felons will engender more crime in the neighborhoods where those criminals live… which are not likely to be the neighborhood where Descano lives. (The nice thing about being a white urban progressive is that you’re largely insulated from the consequences when your ideas are put into action). Let’s see how the changes play out in Fairfax and other localities pursuing the same changes, measure the results, and make sure there aren’t unintended consequences.

Speaking of  insulation from consequences… the Liberty Justice Center is urging School Board members to fire leaders of the Fairfax Education Association (FEA), which represents 4,000 of the county’s 25,000 teachers and staff, if they organize another “sickout,” reports The Center Square. In October the FEA orchestrated a sickout, in which a few hundred teachers participated, to pressure school officials to not reopen schools for in-person learning. Academic progress has suffered, says the LJC attorneys. Poor and minority students are most impacted. “Our nation’s students need to be in school, not used as pawns in union negotiations. The FEA must not only be called out, but also prevented from repeating its recent illegal strike. It is time for unions and administrators to be held accountable.”