Massachusetts Bail Fund under increased scrutiny


August 12, 2020
The Boston Globe
By Bonita Tenneriello

Bail should not be a tool to keep defendants behind bars

Re “Sex offender on bail charged again” (Metro, Aug. 7) and “Bail fund faces supporter backlash” (Metro, Aug. 12): The outrage displayed in reporting on the Massachusetts Bail Fund is misplaced. Everyone charged with a crime is protected by the presumption of innocence. The only legitimate purpose of bail is to determine an amount that will ensure a defendant comes back to court. Bail is not a tool to prejudge a defendant as guilty and jail that person until a trial.

Where prosecutors believe the defendant poses a threat if released, they must seek a dangerousness hearing, where a defendant has the right to offer opposing evidence and to present a defense. This process protects the public and upholds our constitutional rights.

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins defended her decision to use high bail rather than seek a dangerousness determination in the case of sex offender Shawn McClinton because she claimed that the hearing could traumatize the alleged victim. First, an alleged victim’s testimony is not necessary at a dangerousness hearing; a judge can reach a decision based on other evidence. Second, any prosecution may be traumatizing for an alleged victim, but that does not mean that we send people to jail without a trial or without a court finding that there is sufficient justification to deprive them of their liberty.

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