By Hollis Wormsby
One of the things that stands out in reading stories about crime in Birmingham is the way you see the same names, over and over again, and that many of them are still walking free. These repeat offenders make up the bulk of the crime and the fact that they so easily receive bail is one of the reasons that citizens are afraid to testify against them in court. I have talked with law enforcement and they all note that the lack of credible witnesses is why so many crimes go unsolved and why DAs are forced to make so many split sentence deals that anger the public.
I think one way to address this issue is to create a special court or judge whose duty would be to review each request for bail by a person charged with a violent crime. I would describe a violent crime as any crime involving the use of a weapon, or threat of force of any kind. I would also call it a violent crime any time a criminal enters a private residence without permission of the occupant.
By having a designated judge or special court we could assure that any person subject to this kind of review can be seen within 24 hours after their arrest.
We see so many cases where an individual has several outstanding warrants and still make bail on a new charge. The person who killed Birmingham Police Sgt. Wytasha Carter had a lengthy criminal record. Yet this person was pulled over in November of 2018, for leading police on a high-speed chase, before finally crashing and being taken into custody. The person had an 11-year-old in the car at the time and several guns, including at least one that came with a drum that held 50 bullets.
That is why I believe we should have a special court set up to hear bail requests for violent offenders, particularly repeat offenders. In this special court there would also be a provision where first-time offenders are signed up for classes, mental health screenings or other services that might help to ensure that they will not re-offend. For those who choose to be repeat offenders, bail should not be available. This court would send a message that repeat violent offenders won’t be going home for a long time. And this will reduce crime in the community. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
(Hollis Wormsby has served as a featured columnist for the Birmingham Times for more than 29 years. He is the former host of Talkback on 98.7 KISS FM and of Real Talk on WAGG AM. If you would like to comment on this column you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)