Opposition to Bail Reform Brings Unlikely Bedfellows

As opponents of SB10, California’s Bail Reform Law, gather signatures in hopes of a referendum which would put a hold on the law and take it to the voters in 2020, many may wonder who is leading the opposition and why.  Undoubtedly, bail bondsmen have been critical of the proposed elimination of the cash bail but other, perhaps more unlikely, critics of SB10 have emerged.  Critics like Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, the Innocence Project, Civil Rights Corp and over 100 other criminal justice advocacy groups have opposed the passage of the bill.

Many wonder why these advocacy groups would join the opposition to a bill that replaces the current cash bail system with a system of risk assessment tools to determine pretrial release.  These groups and others have stated their concerns in one concise statement: the new system does not erase the racial bias or inequities and may keep more people incarcerated pretrial.

According to SB10 proponents, the law was supposed to eliminate the injustices present in the criminal justice system.  It was supposed to end discrimination against the poor and reduce pretrial detention rates.   In reality, SB10 relies on pretrial risk assessment tools that use inherently biased data.  Data like arrest record, housing information and whether a defendant has employment to determine pretrial release.  While it is unclear which risk assessment program California will be using other algorithms have used this data which would discriminate against the poor and cause a higher rate of pretrial detention for people of color who are disproportionately detained and arrested.  SB10 also gives broad discretion to the judiciary to decide whether a person should be released.  The law does little to distinguish which defendants are a risk to society and should be held without release and which should be released on their own recognizance or with monitoring.

Given the implications, given what is at risk, SB10 must be reconsidered.  SB10 should be taken to the voters.  Last minute changes caused human rights advocates to remove their support of the bill.  Join the voices by signing the referendum.

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