Risk-based pretrial systems make us safer. Wealth-based ones don’t. It's pretty simple!
Those were some of the findings contained in a comprehensive report on California's money bail system issued this week by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the members of the state's judiciary. Their 10 recommendations align with the approach Senator Bob Hertzberg and I have taken with our companion bail reform bills AB 42 and SB 10, which support a system based on risk, not wealth.
These recommendations outline how California should replace the current money bail system by implementing a robust risk-based pretrial assessment and supervision system. Their recommendations put public safety "front and center." They highlight the fact that a system based on risk-assessment instead of wealth makes the public safer and enhances justice.
After their comprehensive year-long review, the judges wrote:
"At the conclusion of this process, the Workgroup determined that California’s current pretrial release and detention system unnecessarily compromises victim and public safety because it bases a person’s liberty on financial resources rather than the likelihood of future criminal behavior and exacerbates socioeconomic disparities and racial bias."
Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, who initiated and guided this process, is a former prosecutor, trial judge and an appointee of a Republican governor. She possesses a true sense of fairness that is reflected in the report and in her guiding principles that “pretrial custody should not occur solely because a defendant cannot afford bail.”
The report concludes: "These changes will help make California a safer place and the justice system more fair and effective."
That is an incredibly strong takeaway and a true turning point in this public debate.
And it validates our position that our proposed money bail reform represents a win-win-win scenario. We can (1) deliver more justice and fairness, (2) strengthen public safety, and (3) invest our limited public resources more prudently— all at once.
When the legislature returns to Sacramento in January, we will use this report as a key guidepost for our ongoing work to pass bail reform legislation!