Data shows fewer rearrests since implementing new Shelby Co. bail system

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 10:23 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County’s controversial bail system was the topic of discussion for Shelby County Commissioners in a special-called meeting Monday.

Judicial commissioners, those responsible for setting bond, are appointed by the Shelby County Commission.

Seven months after Shelby County’s new bail system was put in place, Head Judicial Commissioner John Marshall and the judge in charge of them, Bill Anderson, presented data to county leaders on re-arrests, changes in bail, and more.

“Am I happy? I’m happy with the progress we’re making,” said Judge Anderson. “Am I satisfied? No, I will never be satisfied, because you can’t change the mindsets of 22 other people.”

The data from General Sessions Court includes more than 18,000 cases from August 2022 to July 31, 2023.

According to the data, re-arrests are down.

Prior to the new bail hearing room, re-arrests were at 11%, according to the head judicial commissioner. He says that’s down to 7% now.

Marshall says those re-offenders are mostly from domestic violence cases, shoplifting and minor thefts.

“I did not see a pattern of someone committing a violent crime like a carjacking, bonding out and committing another carjacking,” said Marshall. “I think that’s the public’s perception, people are getting out doing what they were doing, committing the same type of crime, and I don’t think it’s that simple.”

Judge Anderson adds car thefts are also part of re-offending crimes. He blamed bail bondsmen for those offenders getting out of jail.

“They determine who gets out of jail,” said Judge Anderson. “Period. On a monetary bond. They’re probably 8-10 of them in the City of Memphis. They compete. It’s just like any other competitive business. You go to one, he’ll take 10%, you’ll go to another, they’ll take 9%... I mean, they run the show.”

County commissioners like Mick Wright and other public speakers asked a variety of questions during Monday’s special meeting.

Wright says he’s committed to bringing resources needed to General Sessions and wants to dive deeper into the new data.

“Are there variations between judicial commissioners and judges?” asked Wright. “Are some more lenient than others? Are there particular types of crimes that we’re seeing more frequently and are returning more frequently? This is the starting part, is what I’m trying to say. We’re at the starting point, and we need to start asking the questions based on the data that we have.”

Commissioners did ask for more data Monday and are hoping to get a better perspective of this whole system in the coming months.

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