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California eliminates bail system so that 'rich and poor alike are treated fairly

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed into law a bill that will eliminate the bail system for those awaiting trial. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

California will no longer have a bail system for suspects awaiting trial beginning next year, after Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill aiming to treat suspects more equally, according to The Hill.

Senate Bill 10 will go into effect in October 2019 and replace the current bail system with a "risk assessment" procedure that will determine whether a suspect is released.

"Our path to a more just criminal justice system is not complete, but today it made a transformational shift away from valuing private wealth and toward protecting public safety," said state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who authored the bill along with Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda). "Thanks to the collaboration of the governor, chief justice and the Legislature, we are creating a system that is fairer for all Californians."

How will this work?

Nonviolent misdemeanor suspects will be released within 12 hours after being booked, with exceptions being made for people with recent violent felony convictions, failures to appear, or domestic violence allegations.

For other suspects, local courts will conduct a risk assessment. Those found to be at a low risk of further criminal activity or fleeing will be released. Medium-risk suspects may be released at the discretion of the court, and high-risk suspects will be detained.

Why are they doing this?

The California Legislature decided that a person's freedom should not be dependent upon how much money they have; rather, people should be treated the same under the law.

"Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly," Brown said in a statement.

What do opponents say?

The amendment to put the risk assessment power in the hands of local courts turned off some supporters of the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which fears that will contribute to "racial biases and disparities that permeate our justice system," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"[Senate Bill 10] 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 solved," wrote a delegation of criminal justice reform advocates to the governor.

The bail industry predictably opposed the bill from start to finish, as the Los Angeles Times reported that the new law is "expected to decimate the bail industry."

One last thing…
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