California’s Bail Reform Backlash
Over the past few weeks, numerous civil rights organizations, and justice groups have withdrawn their support for SB10. Even a co-sponsor of nearly two years, Essie Justice Group, has withdrawn support over concerns of recent changes to the bill. SB10 has since been signed and passed into California law. Concerns over the bill have led a coalition to file a referendum. The referendum would require the collection of 365,880 signatures in the next 90 days. If successful, the measure would be put to the voters in November 2020. Read more about this effort in our previous blog: Coalition Launches Referendum Drive to Protect Public Safety and Ensure Fairness in Bail System by Giving Voters Final Say on the Reckless SB10 Bail Scheme.
Leading Opposition to Bail Reform Question Risk Assessment Tools
Opponents of SB10 are united against the use of Risk Assessment Tools to determine pretrial release eligibility. Heavy reliance on these tools require the use of biased data that perpetuates the inequalities in our criminal justice system. These tools often rely on data that is based on factors that are inherently discriminatory in our criminal justice system such as race, gender and socio-economic status. The fear is that more people, not less, will be incarcerated pre-trial without eligibility for release. The recent changes to SB10 removed the safeguards that were in place to protect against sole reliance on inherently discriminatory data in pretrial risk assessment tools. Reliance on arrest data creates an unfair bias against minorities as minorities are significantly more likely to be searched and more likely to be arrested according to a recent study by Stanford.
The algorithm-based pretrial risk assessment systems have raised questions across the question about their ability to determine whether someone will appear at court. Many have called for policy reforms prior to implementing the use of these systems. Some wonder whether reliance on technology for this important of a decision is the right path to determine whether someone should be released pretrial. Technology is far from perfect, reliance on imperfect technology could be disastrous. The potential for risk-based algorithms to exacerbate longstanding inequities in pretrial detention is high and has caused many to call for the elimination of reliance on these tools.