Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Chief Justice Calls for End to Bail System
From staff and wire service reports
In this 2016 file photo, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye delivers her State of the Judiciary address before a joint session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Sacramento.
Bail should be ended in California as a means of ensuring a defendant’s future appearances, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye asserted yesterday.
Responding to a report by the Pretrial Detention Reform Workgroup, which she set up, the chief justice said:
“I support the conclusion that California’s current pretrial system unnecessarily compromises victim and public safety and agree with the recommendation to replace our current system of money bail with one based on a defendant’s risk to the public. This report should serve as a framework as we work with the Governor and the Legislature to address these issues that are central to our values and responsibilities of providing fair and equal access to justice for all Californians.”
The workgroup, in a report released yesterday, termed the bail system “unsafe and unfair,” asserting that it “unnecessarily compromises victim and public safety because it bases a person’s liberty on financial resources rather than the likelihood of future criminal behavior.”
Its proposed reforms, it declared, would “major and dramatic changes to California’s criminal justice system.”
These include gathering information on defendants, at an early point, to assess the risk to the public or their victims if they were released, including hearing from the victims, and detaining those who would be risks.
The panel’s co-chair, Ventura Superior Court Judge Brian J. Back, commented:
“After spending a year studying the issue, it became clear that the current system of money bail fails to adequately address public safety and the profound negative impacts on those individuals who should not be detained before trial. Thousands of Californians who pose no risk to the public are held in jail before trial, while others charged with serious or violent offenses may pose a high risk and can buy their freedom simply by bailing out.
“We think our recommendations, if followed, will help keep Californians safer and preserve scarce jail resources while providing new tools to monitor those released before trial. Importantly, those accused of a crime who pose no risk to the public can keep their jobs, homes and families intact, with profound benefits also to the community at large.”
The proposal is likely to face fierce opposition from the bail industry. Similar bail reform measures approved in New Jersey and New Mexico have faced lawsuits.
American Bail Coalition Executive Director Jeff Clayton said yesterday that other states that have tried similar measures have had problems with released defendants committing new crimes.
Top state officials promised to study the issue and try again next year. Gov. Jerry Brown has said inequities exist in California’s bail system and pledged reform.
A bail reform bill, SB 10, was approved by the state Senate in May, but its co-author, Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, said he would have had to make additional compromises to get it through the Assembly before the Legislature adjourned in mid-September.
Herzberg said in a statement yesterday:
“All year long, our opponents have pointed at the chief justice’s working group on bail and said wait for its recommendations before moving forward. Well, we did, and the judges have ruled: We must replace money bail because it is unsafe and unfair. We must create pretrial service agencies that assess defendants’ risks. That is their conclusion, and I look forward to moving our legislation forward next year.”
The co-author of SB 10, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, commented:
“These recommendations reflect the overwhelming belief that wealth-based justice is not justice at all. For too long, California has linked liberty with personal wealth. For too long, California has forced people who don’t pose a threat to the public and who have not been convicted of a crime to sit in jail and face losing their jobs, their cars, their homes and even their children if they can’t afford to buy their freedom.
“I applaud the chief justice’s working group for this comprehensive review of how California can enhance pretrial justice while protecting public safety.”
The chief justice made headlines earlier this year when she clashed with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly over immigration arrests at courthouses, saying the practice would affect the public’s confidence in the court system.
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company