California's bail system is broken. Risk, not wealth, should determine who can go free

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

October 27, 2017

Despite the loud objections voiced by California’s bail industry, the basic principle of pretrial justice in this state ought to be clear: People who are arrested but haven’t yet gone to trial should be locked up or set free depending on how likely they are to flee or cause harm, not on whether they can afford bail.

A committee of judges appointed by California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye suggested a set of guidelines earlier this week for pretrial release that is based on that same notion — as are the reforms already implemented in a handful of jurisdictions around the nation that de-emphasize or eliminate money bail in favor of a system based on the risk a defendant poses to the public.

The judges’ input lends an important measure of credibility and urgency to reform proposals in the Legislature that have been hampered by the bail industry’s fierce opposition. A bill to replace money bail with a risk-based system — SB 10 by Sen. Robert M. Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) — has been on hold pending the chief justice’s report, and pending some hint from Gov. Jerry Brown that enough money will be available to help superior courts across the state get their risk assessment projects up and running.

SB 10, which could come to a vote as soon as January, is a good bill whose passage is overdue. And now it’s armed with the judges’ strong statement that the current money-based pretrial system fails to provide due process, support the presumption of innocence or adequately protect public safety.

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