California Moves Closer Toward Ending ‘Unfair and Unjust’ Cash-Bail System

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Not everyone will be happy to see cash bail go. Photo: Mike Knell/CC/flickr

California’s cash-bail system “unnecessarily compromises victim and public safety” and “exacerbates socioeconomic disparities and racial bias,” according to a report released this week. This “unsafe and unfair” system, which disproportionately advantages those with big bank accounts, should be abolished, said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who established the group that issued the report and endorsed its results.

“I support the conclusion that California’s current pretrial system unnecessarily compromises victim and public safety,” she said in a statement Tuesday.

The report suggests replacing California’s current cash-bail system with a “risk-based pretrial assessment,” which would assess a defendant’s public safety and flight risk before determining if they should remain in jail as they await trial.

Cantil-Sakauye is only the latest high-profile figure in California to throw her support behind bail reform. Governor Jerry Brown favors a change, and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Kamala Harris, among others, have endorsed the idea.

“Couldn’t agree more. An individual’s freedom should not be based on their ATM balance,” Newsom tweeted. Harris also tweeted her reaction, writing, “I agree with the Chief Justice — the money bail system isn’t safe and it isn’t smart. We can do better.”

If California, which has some of the highest bail costs in the country, is successful in eliminating cash bail, it will be following the lead of New Jersey and New Mexico, which have made similar moves. But it will not be achieved without opposition. The bail industry is already pushing back, suggesting that the proposed changes to California’s bail system would make the state more dangerous.

California Moves Toward Ending ‘Unfair’ Cash-Bail System