California Voters Will Decide Whether They Want To End Cash Bail Once and for All
California voters will decide this fall whether they’ll embrace a criminal justice reform movement to stop using cash bail to determine whether people who are charged with crimes remain detained in jail.
Complicating the vote is an unusual coalition of opponents: insurers and bail bond companies that would lose their businesses entirely and civil rights and criminal justice groups who fear that the solution may end up being worse than the problem.
Proposition 25 eliminates cash bail in California entirely. Instead, people who have been arrested would be assessed for risk and released under various monitoring conditions. If deemed an unresolvable flight or public safety risk by a judge, they would be detained in jail until at least an arraignment.
The goal is to create an environment where access to money is not what determines whether a person remains in jail (or not) prior to his day in court. The goal itself is laudable—demanding money as a condition of freedom often has the impact of punishing people, particularly poor people, simply for being charged with a crime regardless of guilt or whether they are convicted. Cash bail often requires that these people and their families turn to bail bondsmen to cover the costs, which requires paying a percentage that they’ll never get back. Otherwise, they’re stuck in jail because they cannot afford bail, and studies show that folks in this situation often end up accepting harsher plea deals and receiving longer sentences than those who are able to contest their charges unincarcerated.
California’s legislature actually already passed these very reforms that eliminated cash bail in 2018; S.B. 10 was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in August of that year. But then the bail bond industry bankrolled a successful signature-gathering effort to push the reform to a ballot referendum, halting its implementation until the voters decide whether to accept it.
Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other criminal justice reform advocates had originally been heavily involved in the shaping of S.B. 10,
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