The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Public Defender Chesa Boudin announced that no more cash bail would be used in criminal cases in San Francisco. This will mean that defendants will no longer have to pay to obtain pretrial release. A “risk-based” system will be used instead to define the need for a defendant to be placed in jail prior to trial.
Is this really a newsworthy story in California, the state that has already passed a law ending cash bail? It is. While California did pass the legislation, Senate Bill 10, for the ending of cash bail, it has not taken effect yet. The legislation was signed in August of 2018 by Governor Jerry Brown. The legislation was written to replace the old cash-based system with a new system putting the responsibility for determining jail time for defendants awaiting trial on the judge. For former Gov. Brown, signing this legislation was a personal victory as he was a vocal critic of cash bail saying it was a “tax on poor people” in 1979.
Senate Bill 10 and similar legislation being brought up by Boudin, are yet another way that California is leading the nation in criminal justice reform efforts. Advocates of these reforms say that requiring money for bail perpetuates already difficult racial and economic strains that exist within the criminal justice system. That a monetary bail system only works for the wealthy who can afford it.
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Los Angeles is the largest jail system in the United States. California makes up a significant portion of the bail market, meaning that those who work in the bail industry could be out of work. This has led to a national coalition of bail agency groups coming out to fight against the bill and try to have it overturned. They were successful in that they acquired enough signatures to be on the November 2020 ballot.
Eliminating the cash bail system means that for now, it stays in limbo until the residents of California vote its fate. The outcome of the bill is unknown. There are polls that suggest there is quite a division amongst voters on whether or not to put an end to the cash bail system.
Not only does the bill have opposition from the bail industry, but the ACLU of California has their doubts about the alternative. They fear that when a judge gains so much power, there will be an increase in defendants put behind bars. For those in San Francisco though, changes to the bail system will happen independently of how the vote in the state turns out in November. It is up to the D.A. to decide which policies they approve and will enforce for pretrial jail time. Continue reading