Governor Jerry Brown has been pushing for bail bailouts to be abolished since 1979, and it appears that he fulfilled his wish by signing SB 10, the California Money Bail Reform Act. It seeks to end the cash deposit system in the state of California – a discriminatory system in favor of the rich – and replace it with a release based on a risk assessment and in some cases under supervised conditions (z). In other cases, the defendant is held pending trial. All of this depends on a jurisdiction algorithm – and we know algorithms can have a big problem with bias.
An inmate at Mule Creek State Prison sits on his bunk bed in a gym that was converted to house prisoners August 28, 2007 in Ione, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
Both the office of the governor and the office of the lieutenant governor issued statements praising the law.
“A person’s bank balance should never determine how they are treated under the law,” said the Californian Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in a statement. “Cash bail criminalizes poverty, and with Governor Brown’s signature today, California has opened the door to bringing about and perfecting a just pre-trial trial.”
“Today California is reforming its bail system so that rich and poor are treated equally fairly,” said Governor Brown.
However, there are critics like the California American Civil Liberties Union, which withdrew their support when the legislation deviated too much from its original intent. This should allow those who do not have a lot of cash to be released pending trial; as is the case now in most of the country, it is impossible for anyone but the rich to raise $ 50,000 to $ 50,000 to get out of jail and eventually go to court. It also creates a predatory system of bond companies making huge profits on those who do not have the money to leave bail.
A man walks past a bond shop in Reading, Pennsylvania on October 20, 2011. Once a city with many industries and the largest railroad company in the country, Reading was recently voted America’s poorest city with a population of over 65,000. (Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
The problem with the new law, critics say, is that it leaves room for interpretation by judges the cases in which accused criminals are detained without bail and not released. In other words, they can decide for themselves whether someone poses a public safety or escape risk, denying bail or making the conditions for their release nearly impossible. This leaves the possibility of racial and other discrimination when one comes before these judges; everything is decided by the judiciary and the judges, with a little history of the accused. And, of course, the criminal justice system throughout the United States contains inherent, deeply racial prejudice.
In other words, the intent of the law doesn’t really match what was signed.
Still, some of the organizations and individuals that have supported the bill are confident that it is a step in the right direction.
“Wealth is not a woman’s or a man’s measure. By abolishing the cash deposit, we are saying that those with the least solvency should not be released or imprisoned simply because of their wealth or poverty. SB 10 is only one step on the long road to perfecting our judicial system, but it is an important one, ”said Assembly Spokesman Anthony Rendon, who signed the bill.
The president of another supporter of the law, Tom Steyer of NextGen America, agreed.
“Today California made history by ending the bail and taking a significant step towards eliminating injustice at the heart of our criminal justice system. For decades, the money deposit system has created a two-tier system that prioritizes profit and punishes poverty, and is particularly harmful to colored communities. In America, your bank account must not determine your access to justice, and having SB 10 is an important step in creating a more just and equitable criminal justice system. “