A bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is taking aim at the bail bond industry by providing incentives for states that replace cash bail systems.

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced support for bail reform efforts, stating that “today in America, most people are in jail not because they’ve been convicted of a crime, but because they can’t afford to pay pretrial bail.”

Newsom augmented this claim with a number of info-graphics on his Facebook page, one of which claimed that “9 in 10 people awaiting trial in jail are locked up because they can’t afford to post bond.”

Joey Freeman, Chief Policy Consultant for Newsom, sourced the claims to research done by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the Department of Justice.

The report, which looked at data from felony cases in the 75 most populous counties in the U.S., found that “about 9 in 10 detained defendants had a bail amount set, but were unable to meet the financial conditions required to secure release.”

The report also found that approximately 450,000 people, which amounts to about 70 percent of all people in jail, have not been convicted of a crime.

A report which examined racial and ethnic differences in pretrial releases backs up another Newsom claim that “Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans are twice as likely to be hurt by cash bail,” as they remain in jail more often due to an inability to pay bail, which is also typically higher than the amount set for the average white defendant.

In California, the average daily jail population is 73,000, and 46,000 of those are un-sentenced inmates, according to the most recent data. The median bail amount is $50,000, which is five times higher than the rest of the country.

Multiple bills have been introduced in the California legislature aimed at addressing bail reform. Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, authored SB10, which would do away with bail schedules, and subsequently, the bail industry. Judges would use pretrial assessments to determine an inmate’s release.

The California District Attorney’s Association [CDAA] opposes SB10, stating in a press release that a provision which would bar judges from assigning bail which would not exceed what the defendant can afford would, “(result) in release assuming the defendant doesn’t want to stay in jail.”

“Releasing every non-capital defendant in the state, no matter how predatory, will cause irreparable harm to the public,” the CDAA continued.

The ACLU of California supports the bill, stating that it would “serve public safety by ensuring that judges have the information they need to determine who can be released while they await trial and what the conditions of release should be.”

“Under the current money bail system, the rich are rewarded and everyone else is punished,” the ACLU said.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee passed SB10 by a 4-2 vote on July 11, 2017. It will now head toward the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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Joey Freeman, Chief Policy Consultant for Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom
California District Attorney’s Association

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