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ACLU HAWAI‘I: Bail Bills a Start, But More Work Needed

April 28, 2019, 10:08 AM HST (Updated April 28, 2019, 10:08 AM)
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The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i (ACLU) reviewed the final versions of HB 1552 and SB 192—bills establishing a Hawai‘i Correctional Oversight Commission; a criminal justice institute to gather data on the Hawai‘i corrections system; and making some adjustments to how bail is handled in Hawai‘i.

For years the ACLU has pushed for meaningful reform of our criminal justice system that will both protect public safety and preserve the rights of the accused. The ACLU is encouraged by the formation of the Commission, and especially HB 1552’s data collection focus—since local corrections reform has historically been hampered by a lack of data and transparency from the Department of Public Safety.

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The bail-related portions of the bills do make some positive changes (allowing for the option of unsecured bail, requiring courts to consider the least restrictive conditions of release, and the ability to bail out 24 hours a day instead of business hours). But while these are steps in the right direction, one of the fundamentally broken pieces of the system remains in place.

“While these bills certainly make some positive changes, unfortunately they also maintain a bail system where someone who is merely accused is—for all intents and purposes—guilty until proven innocent,” said Executive Director Joshua Wisch. “This is because under these bills a person accused must prove they are not a flight risk or a public safety risk. But under our system of “innocent until proven guilty,” the burden of proving someone is a danger or a flight risk should fall on the State. We’re pleased the bills make more clear that the least restrictive forms of bail should be used and that people will be able to post bail more easily. But there’s still a lot to do. We look forward to partnering with the community, the courts, and the legislature to continue the work that was started this year.”

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