“Why do repeat offenders, with multiple felonies, get released on their own recognizance?”
Many have asked, “Why do repeat offenders or people charged with multiple felonies get released by the courts on their own recognizance (OR)?”
(We will provide a general answer and some links to where additional, more in-depth information can be found at the end. If this is not what you want to happen in our community, please contact your local and state elected officials. Express your thoughts politely, and as this is an election year, know what your representatives, judges, senators, or anyone else asking for your vote, believes. There are people actively working to make these changes and go a lot further. This is your community; what happens to it is up to all of you.)
This is due to the laws passed by the Washington State Legislature and the rules adopted by the Washington State Courts under the desire for criminal justice reform, “smart justice”, and other titles.
The judges do have discretion as to whether a person has a bond set or they are release OR, but with that discretion, they need to stay within the court rules and laws.
Sheriff Knezovich has stated many times, people who continue to commit crimes and victimize our citizens should be off our streets. Their actions show they will continue their criminal behavior, and with the system releasing them, sometimes within hours, there is no deterrent.
In addition, our community needs effective addiction and mental health treatment. Being held in jail or being released into our community should not be the only alternatives for people in need of mental health treatment or for people who are addicted.
However, if people continue to be released right back to their criminal activity, showing they will continue to victimize our community, they must not be arbitrarily released without consideration of the public’s safety and right not to be preyed upon.
Those who state, “but these are nonviolent offenders”, or they are committing “victimless crimes”, are not considering how quickly a burglary or vehicle prowl (considered nonviolent crimes) can turn violent. When the victim comes home or wakes up, scared for their and their family’s life, and startling or confronting the criminal. They also aren’t taking into account the victim(s) and their rights to not be terrorized, not feel violated, and not feel unsafe in their own home. Not to mention, the time and anguish they will go through canceling credit cards, dealing with identity theft and credit issues, while replacing damaged or stolen items.
Yes, we should try to help people who suffer mental issues, and yes, we should try to help people with addictions, but not at the dismissal of the victim and their rights to safety and security. The victim’s rights, our community’s rights, should be first and foremost when considering the release of a habitual or violent offender.
Information and Resources:
Pretrial Reform Task Force “Final Recommendations Report” (2019) http://www.courts.wa.gov/subsite/mjc/docs/PretrialReformTask
Washington State Court Rules https://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/