It’s 2019, ladies and gentlemen. And bail reform is still a present reality in our lives, growing even more persistent in its depredations upon Charleston every passing day.
In 2016, the Charleston Criminal Justice Coordinating Council was awarded $2.25 million in grant money, as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge’s initiative to “change the way America thinks about and uses jails” — a lofty goal that has drained twice that amount in nearly four years.
The results of bail reform serve to remind us that jail is a place for the wicked and unjust of our society; those among us that seek to do harm to the innocent. And a plethora of them have been thrust upon us like wolves, being relinquished of personal responsibility, and cleansed from the books of a sizable jail population as a reward.
It’s important to remember that there are many ways to reduce mounting jail population numbers to meet the goals of an aboriginal change (in this case, the CJCC and its benefactor). It is often said that only low level offenders and “familiar faces” are the target groups to be given a complimentary pass to freedom.
But as seen through our original reporting, a point of focus is always to speak candidly on the issue of repeat offenders who cycle through the jail system, and the nature of their criminal enterprise. Judges have consistently avoided the responsibility of their job, dishing out personal recognizance bonds like gifts on Christmas Day.
Criminal records of such offenders may contain placement on the sex offender registry, charges of domestic violence and assault, weapons and drug offenses, and an ever-expanding litany of felony crimes. It is common for these very criminals to possess convictions on crimes alike to or distant from the new arrest in question.
Notable mentions include Robert Conway-Price — arrested for criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11 — and a slew of degenerates like the notorious Joshua Nix, a felon convicted of several crimes fueled by bloodied violence. He even spent time in prison following an altercation with a young couple at a local Piggly Wiggly that resulted in a thrashing onslaught by blade.
A Bond Reduced for Murder out of Dorchester County
Almost two years ago, Jaquez Gabriel Brown, then 21, was arrested by North Charleston Police officials and the U.S. Marshals in connection with a murder that took place in an Ashley Phosphate Road neighborhood, resulting in the death of Al-Jaami Asa Sweet, 40, on a driveway’s pavement.
Mr. Brown spent the better part of two years at the Al Cannon Detention Center, until his bond was reduced to $50,000 for charges of murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime this past January. This is despite that Mr. Brown was formerly on probation for a 2013 attempted murder charge, to which he pleaded guilty to in a lesser degree in 2015.
His bond very possibly benefits the CJCC, who routinely tout a lower level of inmates at the Al Cannon Detention Center ever since they became a relevant force in Charleston.
Little Time Means a Desperate Find for Funding
Cash is running low for the council, as they are seeking — if necessary — aggregate funding from sources other than the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a philanthropic organization tasked with keeping the council’s efforts in Charleston alive over the better part of three and a half years.
The ploy to remain relevant continues with countless media interviews provided by differing ranks within the CJCC, this time provided in a Live5News article by the Deputy Chief Stan Gragg of the Mount Pleasant Police Department, who serves as the council’s chairman. A collection of points were spilled out by Mr. Gragg, who feels one of the council’s main challenges is “getting people to understand the group’s mission and plans.”
And what is odd about Mr. Gragg’s praises council successes is that he works out of Mount Pleasant — one of the safest cities in South Carolina — while being spared the carnage of a region with a high volume of crime, like neighboring North Charleston. Mount Pleasant enjoys a crime rate of 1.9 to a national median of 4; North Charleston is plagued by a rate of more than double (9.27) the national median.
The Results of Bail Reform are Far from Positive
The results are in: Charleston’s CJCC has not done enough to satisfy stated goals at the start of this experiment. Other critical mishaps have clouded the council, like a 2017 story by the Charleston Chronicle titled CJCC set on improving local criminal justice system with the help of study, grant, that shared questionable data results of an internal study “…Money bond releases returned to jail at considerably higher rates than those released on personal recognizance (PR), 85% to 53% in in 2014 and 71% to 41% in 2015, respectively.”
This is wrong on two fronts: According to several bail experts we spoke to, it is impossible for a bonding agency to stay above water with numbers equivalent to the disproportionate scale provided. And, Deputy Chief Gragg told Live5News that “…the failure rate is about the same” between cash and personal recognizance bonds. It’s either that the gathered data from 2017 is deeply flawed, or Mr. Gragg is simply failing to tell the full story.
Our indictment has never shifted, and Charleston Jail Watch won’t either. We will always stand on the front line, eager to fulfill our promise to reporting what conventional sources won’t. For now, bail reform maintains a stranglehold over Charleston. But you can bring these efforts to a halt by signing onto this pledge, allowing you to share your dilemma with prospective lawmakers and elected officials.