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One of the most important aspects of the criminal justice system is that people are innocent until proven guilty.

Lisa Kruse


When an individual is arrested, the pretrial phase begins — a portion of the system between arrest and the establishment of innocence or guilt, conviction and sentencing.

As individuals are arrested and released from custody, either with a cash bond or on their own recognizance, it can be confusing and frustrating to our community if some individuals end up further threatening public safety.

Those who are arrested may be charged with an offense they have not been found guilty of committing. Any use of jail is punishment before guilt is established, which means we are potentially punishing an innocent person.

We have constitutional rights to a process of establishing guilt, to be innocent until that time, and to have reasonable bail and conditions set in the pretrial phase.

Incarceration during the pretrial phase can cause major disruptions in people’s lives. If an individual is in jail, that person likely experiences a diminishing of elements in life that would lead to a crime-free life — jobs, family and peer support, stable housing.

Thus, the more time spent in jail leads to higher likelihoods of future criminal offending. In addition to short-term community safety, we also have to think about long-term community safety.

Additionally, a monetary bail system does not function well to promote community safety.

Research shows that judges are fairly consistent in allocating higher bond amounts for riskier individuals. However, individuals with means are more likely to post bail than those who are poor regardless of bail amounts because they are likely to have more cash on hand.

Cash bond is not about who is more dangerous but who has more money. It doesn’t make sense to have low-risk people in jail simply because they cannot afford to get out and it should be questionable in its constitutionality.

In evidence-based practices, the idea of harm is considered more broadly.

It is important that we advocate for the person who has been victimized and the immediate harm but also to not lose sight of the harms to families of the victim, the person charged with a crime, and the community.

In broadening the concept of harm, we can consider the life of the individuals charged with crimes and how many of them have also been victimized or suffer from mental-health issues, drug addiction, trauma or other problems.

In seeing the broader harm to communities, we can also begin discussing more long-term solutions to criminal offending.

We know that the status quo is not working. Locking people up, whether pretrial or post-conviction, does not create a safer community. Those who are incarcerated are highly likely to reoffend.

Within five years of release from prison, 67 percent of offenders will commit another crime. In academic circles this is called the “revolving door of justice.” The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. About 750 per 100,000 individuals are locked up, 2.3 million people. It cannot simply be that this large of a population is bad to the core.

Nationwide, we have to start thinking more creatively about approaching crime. I believe that we all want safety and security for ourselves and our community, justice and reparations for victims, and for individuals to stop committing crimes.

Tough-on-crime approaches are not working to achieve these goals. So how do we stop criminal offending? This takes understanding why people end up committing crimes and how these issues can be addressed. If we know that cash bail and pretrial detention are not working, what would work to keep the community safe and promote compliance from the offender?

The Criminal Justice Management Council and the many criminal justice practitioners I’ve met and worked with in La Crosse County are dedicated to making the system more effective at keeping the community safe and are working hard to achieve this.

This includes re-entry support for those struggling with mental-health issues and substance abuse, better risk-assessment tools, revamping the pretrial phase, a system of care for at-risk juveniles, and evaluating drug court to ensure this court is effectively helping those addicted to drugs.

These individuals go to numerous council, group and subgroup meetings in a tireless effort to advance change geared toward the same goal: Reducing crime and promoting community safety while being cost-effective.

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Lisa Kruse is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She is vice chair of the La Crosse County Criminal Justice Management Council and chair of the La Crosse County Evidence-Based Decision Making group.


(5) comments


Ms. Kruse composes a wonderfully composed essay, which I am sure is factually correct.

However, she ignores completely the issue at hand: why certain judges go out of their way to put violent repeat offenders back on the street to cause harm to innocent citizens. This matter is less a matter of law and more an issue of judgement, or lack of it. That is, the law allows judges plenty of latitude to manage those that do harm to society, while they await their trial.

A repeat felon shoots up a residence, has his bond reduced to a pittance, which is posted by his drug supplier, and is back on the street in hours, only to commit another felony. And no one was surprised.

The police were correct and within their rights to draw the public's attention to this injustice.


Crank, reading the following from you makes me think you have one one of the emptiest heads and vacant hearts on these posts:

"Someone with a lot to lose (house, home, family, career) is more likely to have the means to post bond and may also be less likely to abandon those things by fleeing prior to trial. In addition, those with means are not likely to violate the conditions of their bond and commit additional crimes for those same reasons; they have a lot to lose."

You don't seem to have any grasp at all on the concept of innocence until proven guilty. You seem to assume that, if arrested, there should be a tremendous onus public suspicion placed upon the person arrested. It is hilarious in a sad way that you seem to think that an innocent person of means will be more trustworthy about bail than an innocent but destitute person who has been wrongly charged.

The NYTimes Sunday magazine today has a very powerful article about this problem. It looks like many local governments and law enforcement agencies view the bail system as an important revenue stream for their operations and, as such, abuse it for the income it brings. And it looks like the people who suffer the most for this are the poor, who also must suffer the injustice that so often comes with this practice, suffering grievous damage in the process and left with no recourse when they are absolved of the crime and set free.


I’m not surprised you’re here trolling me with insults. You act as though you’ve not read or, more likely, chosen to ignore what I’ve writte so you can bicker.

Ironically, you may recall you had the exact opposite opinion about Justice Kavanaugh being presumed inncocent until proven guilty with less evidence than exists against Jesse Turnmire. Yet there you were and here you are. You need to make up your mind because you seem like a hypocrite.

As for the rest of your rhetoric, each of your points was already answered in my original comment. I did not indicate a person of means is more trustworthy, simply less likely to abandon their ‘stuff’ and flee justice. Their possessions act like a sort of ball and chain. You’re being willfully obtuse. Even your head isn’t this empty, oldtroll. You look desperate. Why not go back to following “Ricky’ around? Or, perhaps when you have an opinion you might simply share your opinion, direct your comments to the content of the article and skip the personal insults/name-calling. Bet you can’t...


I stand by my post, crank. In fact, I think you protesteth too much, as the saying goes for somebody who shouts loudly but too little effect because he has nothing credible to say in his own defense. "I did not indicate a person of means is more trustworthy, simply less likely to abandon their ‘stuff’ and flee justice." THAT is your defense? It simply verifies what I said about you. You do seem to show some compassion, however, for your pal, Ricky, as I am pretty rough on him sometimes when he acts so badly. I realize he is not bright enough to defend himself, but perhaps he will learn to govern his tongue a little bit before speaking out publicly and making a fool of himself. You could use a little of that advice, too.


This appears to be yet another in the series of articles precipitating from the Gonzalez/Abraham/Turnmire bail issue. Reading the article, Ms. Kruse may be correct on all points. We should all agree that bail is not punishment though the writer here seems to equate it to punishment.

Judges may consider public safety in setting or even denying bail during the pretrial period. Risk of flight is not the only consideration. In cases where more serious crimes are alleged, the flight risk and/or safety risk increases therefore bail may be denied as provided in the law.

Kruse points out that poor people are impacted more by pretrial incarceration. Perhaps that's true and perhaps not so true. Someone poor and close to crisis-mode for housing/income has less of a buffer to handle loss of employment while incarcerated. A reasonable person cannot help but agree with all of this. One question renders the point moot in the related case of Jesse Turmire, "Did Jesse have a job or a family to support?" This provides direct counterpoint to the point Ms. Kruse makes about denying a defendant (she writes) "...job, family, peer support or stable housing."

Someone with a lot to lose (house, home, family, career) is more likely to have the means to post bond and may also be less likely to abandon those things by fleeing prior to trial. In addition, those with means are not likely to violate the conditions of their bond and commit additional crimes for those same reasons; they have a lot to lose.

In cases of poor people who commit crimes... If you have nothing to lose, why not go out and sell more drugs, steal more stuff to pay back the person(s) who put up your bail?

Bond is sometimes denied in cases of murder, rape, sexual assault, violent felony or in cases where guilt is presumed and trial is a mere formality. Yes, judges get to make these presumptive determinations before trial based on evidence presented by prosecutors; e.g. uncontested eye witnesses, physical evidence, video, etc. showing the defendant committing said crime. Judges may also deny bond to defendants where public safety or the safety of witnesses is at risk. In cases where bond is denied, defendants don't sit in jail indefinitely as Ms. Kruse implies. They become eligible for expedited trial (60-days, I think) or they make a plea deal.

The bottom line is this case where Assistant Chief Abraham criticized Judge Gonzalez has resulted in people ignoring the specific details of Jesse Turnmire's case (allegedly shooting into a home with a firearm). It is my opinion and the opinion of many others (including Asst Chief Abraham), Turnmire should have remained in jail. In other cases, with different defendants arrested for other crimes under different circumstances, low or no bail is warranted. Not THIS time and not in this case.

Here is the actual law, in case anyone cares.

"Wisconsin Statutes 969.035  Pretrial detention; denial of release from custody.
(1)  In this section, “violent crime" means any crime specified in s. 940.01, 940.02, 940.03, 940.05, 940.06, 940.07, 940.08, 940.10, 940.19 (5), 940.195 (5), 940.21, 940.225 (1), 940.23, 941.327, 948.02 (1) or (2), 948.025, 948.03, or 948.085.
(2) A circuit court may deny release from custody under this section to any of the following persons:
(a) A person accused of committing an offense under s. 940.01, 940.225 (1), 948.02 (1) or (2), 948.025, or 948.085.
(b) A person accused of committing or attempting to commit a violent crime and the person has a previous conviction for committing or attempting to commit a violent crime."

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