SUPPORT BAIL BOND REFORM…ENACT ASSEMBLY BILL 42

Opinion
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Hilbert Morales
EL OBSERVADOR

Introduced by Assembly Member Rob Bonta (CA District 18; Alameda) and supported by six assembly members and four Senators, AB 42 seeks to reform the current jail bail bond industry. A Blue Ribbon Commission recommendation was to reform the current law enforcement-judicial system which results in many individuals spending much time in jails simply because of their inability to afford a jail bail bond which would enable return to their family, community, and employment while waiting on their own recognizance for their court trial/hearing.

“This act will amend Section 1270 of the CA Penal Code, relating to bail bonds. Existing law provides for the procedure of approving and accepting bail, and issuing an order for the appearance and release of an arrested person. Existing law requires that bail be set in a fixed amount by a judge who is guided by extensive rules and considerations. An arrested offender may be released on his or her own recognizance, unless the court makes a finding on the record that his or her release would compromise public safety or would not reasonably ensure the appearance of the defendant as required.”

This bill, AB 42, would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to safely reduce the number of people detained pretrial, while addressing racial and economic disparities in the pretrial system, to ensure that people are not held in pretrial detention simply because of their inability to afford money bail. The bill would also require the court to release a defendant being held for a misdemeanor offense on his or her own recognizance unless the court makes an additional finding on the record that there is no condition or combination of conditions that would reasonably ensure public safety and the appearance of the defendant if the defendant is released.

A majority vote by the State Assembly and the Senate is required to pass AB 42. Following Governor Brown’s signature, AB 42 would become law within the State of California.

Modernization of CA’s pretrial system is urgently needed because currently thousands of individuals held in county jails across the state have not been convicted of a crime and are detained while awaiting trial simply because they cannot afford to post money bail or pay a commercial bail bond company.

During 2015,63 percent of people in California jails were either awaiting trial or sentencing. As compared with the rest of the nation, CA has relied on pretrial detention at much higher rates than other states. California’s existing pretrial detention practices allow a person’s wealth rather than the person’s likelihood of (integrity) success on pretrial release to determine whether the person will remain in jail before the person’s case is resolved. Detaining people simply due to an inability to afford money bail violates the

American principles of equal protection and fundamental fairness. Nationwide, the majority of people who are unable to meet money bail fall within the poorest one-third of society.

The consequences of pretrial detention—which include greater likelihood of innocent people pleading guilty to a crime, longer sentences upon conviction, loss of employment, income, and housing, and traumatic family disruption—disproportionately affect people of color and low-income.

The commercial money bail system, which requires people to pay nonrefundable deposits to private companies in order to secure release from jail, often leaves people in debt and drives them and their families further into poverty. The commercial money bail system does not improve rates of appearance in court or enhance public safety.

California should follow the lead of the federal government and jurisdictions across the country that have stopped making wealth-based decisions on pretrial detention and instead have shifted to a system that evaluates whether an individual can be safely returned to the community as well as make required court appearances, and, if so, under what conditions.

Other projected improvements are: a) Reduction of jail’s operational expenses; b) Reduced recidivism; c) pretrial social services, mental health and behavioral health services have reduced social costs previously ignored. d) Increasing the use of evidence-based practices in pretrial decisions will provide judges, law enforcement agencies, and pretrial service providers with additional tools to both assist them in assessing a defendant’s likelihood of success on pretrial release and to identify and meet the needs of those defendants and the community to assure constitutional and statutory objectives. Modernizing pretrial (risk assessment) practices will support the goals of the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011 by providing additional options to manage pretrial populations using best practices developed over many years across many jurisdictions. It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to safely reduce the number of people detained pretrial, while addressing racial and economic disparities in the pretrial system, to ensure that people are not held in pretrial detention simply because of their inability to afford money bail.

EO’s readers are encouraged to go to <California Penal Code, Section 1270> to read this proposed pretrial improvement legislation in its entirety. Much of what is presented above has be lifted from this proposed legislation (copy-editing) to ensure correct presentation and understanding.

The general public, especially the low income person of color, needs to communicate to his/her CA Assembly member, that you support passage of this legislation. It take no imagination to realize that THE CURRENT BAIL BOND INDUSTRY WILL BE LOBBYING to ensure this AB 42 bill is not successfully passed.

The successful passage of this AB 42 bill is essential to the modernization of the current law enforcement-judicial system which has favored punitive mass incarceration since 1975 when former President Clinton signed that federal ‘three strikes’ legislation which initiated the mass incarceration trend.

SO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR STATE ASSEMBLY MEMBER TO TELL HIM OR HER THAT YOU SUPPORT THE ENACTENT OF AB 42; TELL GOVERNORN JERRY BROWN TO SIGN IT…all legislators will be under lobbyist pressure to let it die. WE, THE PEOPLE must speak up in our own interest.

 

 

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