Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Easy Access to Guns—Not Bail Reform—Is to Blame for Rising Violent Crime, New CAP Column Finds
Press Release

RELEASE: Easy Access to Guns—Not Bail Reform—Is to Blame for Rising Violent Crime, New CAP Column Finds

Washington, D.C. — Amid the recent rise in violent crime nationwide, a new column released today by the Center for American Progress debunks unfounded claims that bail reform is to blame when evidence actually points to easy access to guns as a key driver of rising violent crime.

Whereas the availability of guns has fueled a 28 percent increase in the national rate of gun homicides from 2019 to 2020, and an additional 7 percent from 2020 to 2021, bail reform is proven to promote public safety and improve access to pretrial justice. In fact, when people are assigned cash bail, they are more likely to be charged with a crime in the future. Unjust policies such as cash bail and pretrial incarceration also deepen poverty, drive unemployment, and lead to housing instability—all of which are associated with increases in crime.

“Case study after case study shows that bail reform is not to blame for rising violent crime,  but rather makes communities safer, saves taxpayer dollars, and promotes racial equity and economic justice,” said Rachael Eisenberg, senior director of Criminal Justice Reform at CAP and co-author of the column. “To address violent crime effectively, lawmakers must continue to build upon decades of progress on bail reform but should also focus on strengthening America’s gun laws.”

To illustrate the effectiveness of bail reforms, the column also presents several notable case studies:

  • After the New Jersey Legislature virtually eliminated cash bail in 2017 and decreased rates of pretrial incarceration, its overall crime rate in 2020 decreased by 5.5 percent, while the national average increased by 4.7 percent.
  • After the New York Legislature prohibited cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies in 2020, 99 percent of released individuals remained arrest-free for a violent felony.
  • Cook County, Illinois, saw no change in the rates of pretrial rearrest before and after it implemented bail reforms; 97 percent of released individuals remained arrest-free for a violent crime before and after reform.

Click here to read:Don’t Blame Bail Reform for Gun Violence” by Allie Preston and Rachael Eisenberg

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Tricia Woodcome at twoodcome@americanprogress.org