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Is Cash Bail Being Eliminated in California?

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December 10, 2019  |  Posted by Balboa Bail Bonds Team  |  Bail Bonds

In August 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 10 (SB10), which eliminates the cash bail system in favor of an algorithmic evaluation of detainees to determine whether they should be released. If this bill goes into effect, a detainee will be released if the evaluation is in his or her favor.

In its early stages, this reform was backed by several key organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and hailed as a significant step toward reducing the racial and class inequality inherent in the current cash bail system.

However, as this bill progressed into its final form, those organizations originally in support backed out. Why? Because by the end of the revision process, the bill turned into a system whereby judges would continue to have the power to determine pretrial detainment – but this time, without any recourse for the individual and no address of our current biased judicial system.

As of now, industry and civic leaders have obtained the requisite 500,000 signatures to put the bill to a general vote in the November 2020 ballot. It is back into the hands of the people.

While the current cash bail system is clearly flawed, a premature and incorrect reform could halt California’s ability to solve the real issues for a considerable time into the future. There are real issues in the current system that need reform. Preempting our ability to reform these issues with a flawed change to the cash bail system is a mistake.

Is the Elimination of Cash Bail Good or Bad?

The argument in favor of SB10 is that low-income people who are charged with a crime should have a better chance of pretrial release, as they may not be able to afford bail in the current system. In theory, this could reduce the number of individuals detained.

One of the biggest arguments against SB10 is trusting an algorithm to determine who to release. With SB10 in effect, the only watchdog will be the judge who will review the basic pretrial information provided by the prosecutor and the result of the algorithmic evaluation. In today’s judicial system, prosecutors often press charges more severe than the circumstances warrant, intending to negotiate a plea bargain and bring the case to an early close. How will this affect the process? The answer is: badly. Low-income and minority individuals charged with crimes may be denied pretrial release, while others who fit almost the same criteria could be released.

The current bail industry employs thousands of Californians and creates revenue in the private sector as well as in the judicial system. It creates a real incentive for those who post bail to attend all required hearings and follow the process through, thereby allowing justice to take place within the framework of our society.

A real review of the system is in order – but let’s focus on real reform that helps eliminate racial and class discrimination, stereotyping, and lazy prosecution.

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