What Eliminating Cash Bail means for Public Safety
Assembly Bill 42 currently sits in the California Legislature. The measure would reform the current bail system in California and promote a system of pretrial release that could have grave consequences for the public-at-large. Public safety was one of the primary concerns when bail was established. Bail weighed the rights of a defendant with the desire to keep the public safe from potential harm. High bail amounts often take into account the egregiousness of the crime, potential risk of harm to victims or other people and the risk of flight for the defendant. Bail, since its inception, has helped to guarantee a person’s appearance in court while also ensuring that victims were protected. In a system of pretrial release, many people would be released on their own recognizance with little or no monitoring depending on the alleged crime. Eliminating the cash bail system would mean that victims would lose their right to be heard in court at a bail review hearing and may not be protected like they would when bail is required to be posted.
Commercial bail eliminates the burden on taxpayers. Unlike pretrial release, if a defendant fails to appear at court after posting bail through a bail bondsman, it is the bondsman that assumes the task of bringing the fugitive to justice. In a pretrial release program, defendants are monitored by the court or other taxpayer programs. The financial burden is on the county or state which is funded by taxpayers. Bondsmen alleviate the financial concerns of monitoring. In essence, bail bond companies perform a much greater task than simply bailing someone out of jail. They help to keep the criminal justice system moving by offering support to the defendant and their family and ensuring their appearance in court. It is time for lawmakers to do an honest study of the issues that plague our criminal justice system and jail overcrowding. Reform is absolutely needed, but eliminating bail is not the answer.