California Governor Jerry Brown has signed SB10, the California Money Bail Reform Act, eliminating the bail system in California “so that rich and poor are treated equally.”
The cash bail system allows people awaiting trial to be released from custody after paying money as a form of insurance against flight. The amount of bail is determined by a judge based on the severity of a crime and the risk of running away.
If the detainee cannot afford bail, they have the option of taking out a bond with an insurance company. The money is lent in exchange for a premium. The problem with this system is that people unable to come up with the money, even when innocent, remain in custody awaiting trial, which could take months. Advocates of the Bill argue that SB10 would end the predatory bail industry and wealth as a determinator of who goes to jail during pre-trial.
Supporters of SB-10 contend that this law helps immigrants and minority defendants who remain detained for extended periods of time because they cannot afford bail. However, some immigrant rights organizations oppose the law stating that the risk assessment that would replace bail through SB-10 overly empowers judges and the groups who would determine who is a risk to society and whether or not they should be released.
Francisco Cuevas, a correspondent for Telemundo News, reported that Human Rights Watch revealed that thousands of Latinos are held in jails in the US because they cannot afford bail. The amounts are set so high, that it is impossible for many to pay them.
The bill has sparked heated debates. Advocates celebrate SB 10 as the bill that will end cash bail which criminalizes poverty. Others critique the bill as incomplete, trading one problem for another. This group sees the risk assessment as the new discriminating tool. The bail bond industry fears it will be wiped in California as they prepare to fight back. “You don’t eliminate an industry and expect those people to go down quietly, said David Quintana a lobbyist for the California Bail Agents Association to the Sacramento Bee.
The law will go into effect in October 2019. SB 10 removes money as a variable for pretrial detention and replaces it with a risk assessment that would evaluate arrests based on low (would be released with the least restrictive conditions), medium (an individual could be released or held), and high risk (would remain in custody until arraignment) to public safety.
Nearly 2/3 of California inmates are being held in jail awaiting trial, according to the Sacramento Bee.
“California made history by ending money bail and took a significant step towards amending the injustice at the heart of our criminal justice system. For decades, the money bail system has created a two-tiered system that prioritizes profit and penalizes poverty, and has been especially detrimental for communities of color. In America, your bank account must not determine your access to justice, and passing SB 10 is an important step towards creating a criminal justice system that is more just and equitable.” NextGen American Founder and President, Tom Stayer.
For the full text of the bill today, visit http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.