Bail Reform met with divided opinion

11 judges and Santa Cruz County Superior Court’s executive officer were assembled to study the bail system.  The group commissioned by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye came up with a 57-page report that has judges retaining the power over bail reform.  It is at odds with Senate Bill 10 which allows for widespread release for all misdemeanors and low-level felonies.  The commission argues for the use of computerized algorithms but allows for judges to override recommendations. Senate Bill 10 limits the use of these computerized algorithms and calls for oversight.  Proponents of SB 10 argue that the judges’ plan gives them too much power and could result in an even greater injustice to indigent defendants.  They argue that the bill would relieve some of the pressure under the current bail system.  California’s Chief Justice sees it another way arguing that the new system working with “pretrial services” would monitor defendants who are out of custody.

A prior push for bail reform failed to pass the California Legislature.  The division on how to move forward has halted progress.  There is also grave concern over how counties and the state will pay for proposed programs both under Senate Bill 10 and under the judges’ proposed plan.  Additional monitoring of defendants could come at a great cost to taxpayers.  Bail bondsman absorb a significant cost as they monitor defendants and ensure their appearance in court at no cost to taxpayers.  While everyone is in agreement that criminal justice reform is needed, the question is how to go about it.  Eliminating bail altogether has come at a great cost to public safety and a great monetary cost to taxpayers.  Until everyone is granted a seat at the table, real reform may never happen.

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