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California scraps cash bail: Why human rights, law enforcement agencies oppose new system

Under the new law, most suspects arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors would be released within 12 hours after being booked, officials say.

The California law which abolishes the states cash bail system is being opposed by human rights, civil liberties, and law enforcement agencies.

The law will change how California courts handle the pretrial release or detention of criminal defendants by replacing the current system with an assessment based system determining a persons risk to public safety or flight.

Senate Bill 10 was part of a years-long effort to change the current system which criticized for adversely affecting the poor, according to the bill’s co-authors Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Nan Nuys) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland).

“Today, California takes a transformational step forward to correct a fundamental injustice,” Bonta said. “Abolishing money bail and replacing it with a risk-based system will enhance justice and safety.”

Under the new law, most suspects arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors would be released within 12 hours after being booked, officials say. The system recommends non-monetary release conditions such as GPS trackers, electronic home detention, or other methods in place of cash bail.

However, several organizations including Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department are opposing the changes.

Human Rights Watch Advocacy Director Jasmine Tyler, an organization which has advocated for years for changes to the bail system, wrote an Aug. 23 letter to Governor Jerry Brown opposing the new law.

“The new SB 10 is simply not bail reform; it replaces one harmful system with another,” Tyler wrote. “In fact, it will make many of the problems we revealed in our report even worse.”

The letter criticizes the way the profile based risk assessments may be developed and challenges the objectivity of the assessors. Tyler says the new law will “massively” increase preventative detention instead of lowering pretrial incarceration rates.

“The bill then sets up a system that allows judges nearly unlimited discretion to order people accused of crimes, but not convicted and presumptively innocent, to be held in jail with no recourse until their case is resolved,” Tyler wrote.

Senate Bill 10 was signed into law Tuesday by Governor Jerry Brown but won’t take effect until October.

"The bail system in California admittedly needs attention, but Senate Bill 10 is a public safety disaster under the misguided guise of criminal justice reform," Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones wrote on Facebook.