The White House is standing by its push to end cash bail – saying the decision to hold defendants should be based on the threat they pose to society, not their ability to pay bail.
The topic of cash bail policies has come into the spotlight this week after 39-year-old Darrell Brooks Jr. allegedly plowed through a crowd of innocent people attending a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing six people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injuring dozens more.
"Ending cash bail will not automatically put people charged with crimes on the streets," a White House official told Fox News. "It just means that whether you get bail should be based on the threat you pose, and not how much money you have in your bank account."
"There shouldn’t be a separate criminal justice system for wealthy Americans," the official added.
"Ultimately though, this was a decision made by local courts," the official said, referring to Milwaukee county prosecutors releasing Brooks on bail.
Brooks had an extensive criminal history dating back to 1999, including multiple felonies. A convicted sex offender, Brooks posted bail twice in Wisconsin this year – despite having an active warrant for jumping bail on a sex crime charge in Nevada.
Earlier this month, Milwaukee prosecutors requested just $1,000 bail for Brooks after he was arrested and charged for punching his girlfriend in the face and then running her over with his car in a gas station parking lot. Prosecutors now admit that bail was "inappropriately low."
Brooks’ criminal history ranges from multiple firearms and battery convictions and strangulation to sex offenses and drug charges on a 50-page rap sheet that spans three states.
Last month, the White House released a 42-page report entitled "National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality," which called for working "to end cash bail and reform our pretrial system."
The White House said the elimination of cash bail is one step governments can take to combat gender and race disparities.
The calls to end cash bail come as FBI data shows an unprecedented rise in violent crime, with numbers of murders in the U.S. rising by nearly 30% in 2020 – representing the largest single-year increase recorded since the FBI began tracking the statistic.
The overall violent crime rate, which also includes assault, robbery and rape, rose 5% in 2020 compared to 2019.
A letter from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris included in the report last month argues that the reforms are needed to promote equality, saying that America has "never fully lived up to" the idea that "every one of us is equal in dignity and deserves to be treated equally."
"This strategy outlines an ambitious agenda for this administration and those to come – a roadmap to help our nation close pernicious gender gaps and propel us toward a world with equal opportunity for all people," the letter reads. "Ensuring that all people have the opportunity to live up to their full potential, regardless of gender identity or other factors, is not only a moral imperative. It is a strategic imperative."
Biden reacted to the attack, saying the entire community of Waukesha is "struggling to cope with horrific acts of violence."
The president said families gathered at the Waukesha Christmas parade on Sunday for "the start of the season of hope," but said that "hope and spirit is going to lift up the victims of the tragedy."
"My administration is monitoring the situation very closely," the president said Monday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House "is in close touch with local officials to offer any support and assistance needed."
"Our hearts are with the families and the entire community," she said.
Fox News' Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.