Bill to end cash bail cheered and panned

A new California law that abolishes cash bail now ensures that defendants don’t sit in jail for years awaiting trial just because they’re poor, say advocates. But opponents warn the law will devastate public safety, create more overcrowded jails and give judges too much power.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the controversial bill on Aug. 28, which comes into effect October 2019.

It replaces the current cash bail fee for defendants’ release that’s refundable when they appear at trial with non-monetary conditions for release based on a pretrial risk assessment, the court’s discretion and the defendant’s criminal record.

“The cash bail system keeps people in detention for being poor and releases people who are a threat to public safety simply because they have the money to get out,” said Katie Hanzlik, press secretary for Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, who authored Senate Bill 10 after an October 2017 report titled “Pretrial Detention Reform” recommended overhauling the bail system.

But some bail reform organizations withdrew their support for SB 10, saying it will only increase the jail population and give judges too much discretion over who sits in jail.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice have all turned their backs on SB 10.

“SB 10 is not the model for pretrial justice and racial equity that California should strive for,” stated the ACLU in an Aug. 28 statement. “It cannot guarantee a substantial reduction in the number of Californians detained while awaiting trial, nor does it sufficiently address racial bias in pretrial decision making.”

Read the rest of this story in Tuesday’s Xpress.