MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A push to reform bail in Memphis from local and state leaders may take longer than expected, pending information from the court system.

In a news conference held earlier Thursday, County Commissioner Mick Wright and State Senator Brent Taylor spoke about the need to fix the system to curb crime in the city while also preserving suspects right to bail.

Those holding the news conference say the information they need to restructure the system isn’t available and that it should have been recorded by the court system.

“We as a community have had our patience tested and it’s come back negative,” State Senator Brent Taylor said. “We are completely at our wits’ end when it comes to crime.”

In a much-needed effort to curb crime here in Memphis, city and state leaders say enough is enough. But actually tackling the issue, according to Taylor, is a much bigger challenge.

“The defendant has a constitutional right to bail, and we have to figure out how to balance the needs of the constitutional right of the defendant to get access to bail against the rights of the public to be protected,” Taylor said.

It’s the tug of war that comes with reforming bail in the city and keeping the public safe. 

In August, Shelby County commissioners passed a resolution to expand the judicial commissioner program, which included building a $3 million bail hearing room in exchange for a report every six months. While those judicial magistrates hold bail hearings, the hope was that judges could hear more criminal cases.

On Thursday around 4:00 p.m., Wright went knocking on courtroom doors to find that most of them were locked.

“It’s the middle of the day on a Thursday, why is nobody here?” Wright said.

He couldn’t find any courtroom action or answers to his questions about the current bail system, like the number of people arrested and bail amounts for those released in the last six months.

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“We wanted all that information as a baseline before we changed anything, we needed to have baseline data,” said Mick Wright, Shelby County Commissioner.

Wright says the courts claim they didn’t know they were supposed to be tracking this information. But a resolution from last August outlined those criteria.

“I don’t know what that magic formula is, the only way we can do it is with the data that the county commission is asking for,” Wright said.

Commissioners also recently signed off on a resolution that would allow only judges in the county to sign off on bail for more serious crimes. 

That will go into law statewide in July.