There has been a debate on the philosophy behind bail amounts for years. I like to see high bail on repeat offenders who been brought to jail. First time offenders and those with full time employment should be given a break (for non-violent offenses of course). In the 1990's I began watching bail amounts as the revolving door was the name of the game for our repeat offenders. When I became chief we worked bringing to light some of the problems with low bail amounts. I remember on a Friday in 2007 there was a shooting in West Duluth. No one was hit, but it none the less was a shooting. Neighbors were very upset as the suspect had been terrorizing them for months. The suspect went to jail that night. He was out on bail Monday. My phone rang off the hook from neighbors calling angry the police were not doing anything. Well, it wasn't the police. It was a judge who set his bail at only $4,000. He was able to bail on just $400.00.
While we have seen an increase in the bail amounts in Duluth over the last few years, I know there were folks in the criminal justice system who disagree with my thoughts on the role bail amounts play in crime prevention. Bail amounts send a message to crooks. They indicate how serious a community views crime and those who perpetrate them. Many of us believe higher bail amounts for habitual offenders reduces crime.
Here is an interesting story out of St. Louis on bail amounts and shootings in "Crime Report" that hopefully will spur more studies.