Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following opening statement during a markup of H.R. 2152, the Citizens' Right to Know Act.
"Mr. Chairman, I believe the consideration of the issues underlying this bill is timely, but unfortunately misguided. This Committee should examine pretrial services and bail issues with the goal of reforming our Nation’s bail system, not for the purpose of protecting the use of money bail, which is unfair to the indigent, unproductive, and expensive for American taxpayers.
"H.R. 2152, the “Citizens’ Right to Know Act,” would require a state or local government that uses Justice Department grant funding to pay for a pretrial services program to report annually certain information to the Department about defendants who participate in the pretrial services program.
"Information that would be required to be reported includes:
(1) the name of each participant of the pretrial services program and each occasion that person failed to make an appearance,
(2) the previous arrest record of each participant, and
(3) the amount of money allocated for the pretrial services program.
"If the unit of government fails to comply with the reporting requirement, it would lose its entire funding under the relevant program for the following fiscal year.
"The requirements in this bill largely mirror legislative initiatives being advanced by the ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, in the states, under the guise of transparency.
"Citizens have the right to know what their government is doing and I support the reporting of information that will educate us as to what is taking place. As for H.R. 2152, however, I question whether the categories of information that must be reported under the bill are designed to do that, or are adequate to tell us about the efficacy of these programs.
"In addition, the bill requires that this information be made publicly available by the Attorney General. The ACLU has written to us to express concerns about this publication requirement and the harms to individuals resulting from the sharing of their arrest records and personally identifying information. I share these concerns.
"I will discuss these issues more fully in connection with the substitute amendment, which I expect will be offered shortly. However, my principal concern is that we are marking up the wrong bill.
"Our colleague, Representative Ted Lieu, who could not attend the markup today, introduced not one, but two measures that would help eliminate the use of money bail in the states. H.R. 1437, the “No Money Bail Act,” would reduce Justice Department grant awards to states that do not eliminate money bail. H.R. 4019, the “Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act,” takes a slightly different approach by providing grant funding assistance to states that eliminate money bail in favor of systems that evaluate defendants to place appropriate conditions on their release and follow up with monitoring. Instead of considering H.R. 2152 today, we should be advancing one of these bills.
"We are not doing that, unfortunately. Therefore, in connection with the substitute amendment, my colleagues and I will discuss our specific concerns with this bill.
"I hope that we will be able to address some of these issues. If we do not, I will oppose the bill. Whatever the outcome today, I hope this discussion will highlight the need to do something about the real problem – our Nation’s unjust money bail system.