California Becomes First State to Ditch Cash Bail: Oregon Should Follow Suit

Gov. Brown Signs Bail Reform Bill

Almost forty years ago, a governor of California in his State of the State address "urged the Legislature to take on bail reform ... calling it a 'tax on poor people.'" That was Jerry Brown, who yesterday, near the end of his fourth non-consecutive term in office, finally had the opportunity to sign a bill abolishing cash bail in the state.

"[Senate Bill 10] sets up a system that allows judges almost unlimited discretion to order people accused of crimes, but not convicted and presumptively innocent, to be held in jail with no recourse until their case is solved", wrote a delegation of criminal justice reform advocates to the governor. But after the bill was rewritten, the ACLU no longer supported the bill, saying it gave too much discretion to judges to keep people locked up awaiting trial. Judy Woodruff interviews Marisa Lagos of public television station KQED, which has covered the story.

When Senate Bill 10 takes effect on October 1, 2019, defendants will no longer receive dollar bail amounts, and they will not have the opportunity to make a cash payment in order to be released.

Under the new law, a pretrial assessment would be done by either court employees or a local public agency that has been contracted to determine a defendant's risk.

Most suspects accused of nonviolent felonies will be released within 12 hours of booking, while those charged with serious, violent felonies will stay in jail before trial.

California is at the forefront of a national campaign to end money bail that has also recently seen states like New Jersey and New Mexico adopt polices to circumvent the for-profit bail industry, though none had yet eliminated bail completely.

Gina Clayton Johnson, executive director of Essie Justice Group, which advocates for women with family members in prison, says she worries the policy will lead to mass incarceration.

Others, meanwhile, argue it will allow unsafe people to go free and perhaps not return for trial.

Nor has the crime wave many conservative critics predicted bail reform would produce actually materialized, at least so far. But if crime rates escalate, for whatever reason, no one should underestimate the political temptation that will gain renewed strength to maximize incarceration again, no matter how unequal, unjust, or remote from the actual causes and consequences of lawbreaking. "Unfortunately, the legislative calendar does not provide the necessary time to clearly resolve the concerns that need to be addressed for the bill to pass the two legislative houses and get to the Governor's desk for his signature".

AB 1797 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Marin County, is expected to create a requirement for insurers writing residential property insurance to conduct a replacement cost estimate on an every other year basis.

Defendants deemed likely to appear and posing little risk to the public will be released.

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