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ACLU Turns Against California Bail Reform Bill It Helped Craft

The group fears the bill wouldn't really reduce unneeded pretrial detentions of the poor.

JailWilleecole / Dreamstime.comThe California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it is completely turning against a bill to end the use of cash bail to decide who goes free prior to trial and who remains stuck behind bars.

This is a bill that the ACLU once supported. SB10 would have Caliornia follow in the footsteps of New Jersey and Alaska by turning to a pretrial assessment and monitoring system and away from cash bail schedules for people who have been charged with crimes but not yet convicted.

This overdependence on cash bail has resulted in a pretrial justice system where poor people either end up stuck in jail while they wait, where they're more likely to accept bad plea deals just to get out, or have to put up what little savings they're able to scrape together to give to a bail bonds company (and say goodbye to that money, even if the charges are dropped).

Bail reformers don't want money to determine who gets out of jail before trial. So SB10 would establish pretrial services programs across the state that would use a risk assessment system to determine who gets detained and would put in new mechanisms to keep track of defendants to make sure they show up for court.

But in the negotiations over the bill, it's been changed to give the court system itself a significant amount of control over the development of these assessment tools, and to give judges a lot of control to decide who is detained. Bail activists fear that SB10 now would create an environment of presumption of detention where defendants would still end up in jail but wouldn't even have the option to pay bail to get out.

On Friday, I noted that the ACLU had gone neutral on the bill while other civil rights groups have turned against it completely. Today the ACLU issued a statement officially opposing the legislation:

As much as we would welcome an end to the predatory lending practices of the for-profit bail industry, SB 10 cannot promise a system with a substantial reduction in pretrial detention. Neither can SB 10 provide sufficient due process nor adequately protect against racial biases and disparities that permeate our justice system.

Unfortunately, this amended version of SB 10 is not the model for pretrial justice and racial equity that the ACLU of California envisioned, worked for, and remains determined to achieve. We oppose the bill because it seeks to replace the current deeply-flawed system with an overly broad presumption of preventative detention. This falls short of critical bail reform goals and compromises our fundamental values of due process and racial justice.

The bail bond industry also opposes the bill. So in order to pass SB10, lawmakers would have to go against the will of both interest groups.

The revised bill has the support of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, as well as Democratic frontrunner to replace Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Photo Credit: Willeecole / Dreamstime.com

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  • Eddy||

    "Abhorred monster! Fiend that thou art! The tortures of hell are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! You reproach me with your creation, come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed."

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    /every parent ever

  • Eddy||

    That's a bit harsh.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    If you can't take the heat, don't draw all over the antique dining room table with a permanent ink pen.

  • Eddy||

    I was thinking more about Frankenstein's monster, but what you said does sound pretty bad.

  • Eddy||

    PS - The monster thought Frankenstein was his dad, so strictly I think we can get away with calling the monster Frankenstein, too.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    That depends entirely on the marital status between Dr. Frankenstein and his laboratory equipment.

    And to assume that the good doctor was filling the role of husband in the relationship is nothing short of inexpressibly problematic.

  • BYODB||


    Bail reformers don't want money to determine who gets out of jail before trial. So SB10 would establish pretrial services programs across the state that would use a risk assessment system to determine who gets detained and would put in new mechanisms to keep track of defendants to make sure they show up for court.


    Well, the accused is still paying for it only now so is every other tax payer in California. Although, in this case, it seems they're getting about what they deserve given how many perfectly normal things are outlawed in their bizarre-world version of Texas.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    but wouldn't even have the option to pay bail to get out.

    Lawyering for the ACLU must be deeply conflicting. As lawyers, they get paid better than the average bear. As ACLU standard bearers, they must hate rich people privilege. And here they are, rejecting a process because it doesn't allow money to walk and talk.

    What devilrous times we live in.

  • Eddy||

    I wish this was Volokh Conspiracy, so I could ask about this part of the California Constitution:

    ART. I, SEC. 12. "A person shall be released on bail by sufficient sureties, except for:

    (a) Capital crimes when the facts are evident or the presumption great;

    "(b) Felony offenses involving acts of violence on another person, or felony sexual assault offenses on another person, when the facts are evident or the presumption great and the court finds based upon clear and convincing evidence that there is a substantial likelihood the person's release would result in great bodily harm to others; or

    "(c) Felony offenses when the facts are evident or the presumption great and the court finds based on clear and convincing evidence that the person has threatened another with great bodily harm and that there is a substantial likelihood that the person would carry out the threat if released.

    "Excessive bail may not be required. In fixing the amount of bail, the court shall take into consideration the seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearing at the trial or hearing of the case.

    "A person may be released on his or her own recognizance in the court's discretion."

  • Longtobefree||

    Oh, that part.
    Well, never mind. That is just a bunch of legal boilerplate that no longer matters.

  • Longtobefree||

    . . . scrape together to give to a bail bonds company (and say goodbye to that money, even if the charges are dropped).

    Well, how about the prosecutors office pays back all bails posted for accused that are released or found not guilty? To keep that from becoming a tax burden type of slush fund, the prosecutors would pay from their pension funds. That would hold down the bogus charges piled on to force plea bargains, and make the charges filed much more likely to charges that will get proved in court.

  • Morrisd553||

    Why can't our legislators in Sacramento spend more time in helping victims from the rising crime rate? Why do the criminals in our society deserve more leniency? Put this on the ballot and let the people decide.

  • Jickerson||

    Yes, because anyone who is arrested is guilty. And, of course, all criminals are bad, because all laws are just!

    Smart thinking, you wretched authoritarian, you!

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Well the current system doesn't work. Maybe it's something they tried something new anyone without a lot of "what ifs" .

  • Eddy||

    I think only about 2/3 of your handle is accurate.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Anything that would put the bail industry out of business is a good thing.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "The group fears the bill wouldn't really reduce unneeded pretrial detentions of the poor."

    Duh.

    Pretrial cash bail is how people avoid pretrial detention. Without it, you're detained.

    Much like the idiotic "we can't separate children", the goal is an end to enforcement of law, not an end to the particular thing bitched about.

    Really? You want to put children in adult jail with their parents (or whoever happened to smuggle them in to the country)? No, you don't want children in adult jail either?

    Oh, you just don't want laws enforced!

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