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California voters rejected ‘zero bail.’ Now lawmakers weigh new overhaul of system

“Even with the changes this week, the legislation is supported by groups including the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Californians for Safety and Justice.

“We strongly support SB 262 because it moves us closer to a pre-trial system that prioritizes public safety and not the size of a person’s bank account,” the three groups said in a statement. “We continue to champion the bill with its changes because it takes California further from its habit of perpetuating cycles of debt and poverty via incarceration — particularly in over-policed Black and brown communities.”

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Criminal-Justice Reform on CA Ballot in November

“Mike Herald, policy director with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said cash bail is very punitive for low-income defendants.

“Many people ended up getting held in jail for months on end simply because they didn’t have the money to be able to get out on bail,” Herald said. “And then other folks who did get out on bail often were stuck with very large bills.”

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People Fail to Appear in Court, but Judge Lets Them Go on ‘Zero Bail’ because of Pandemic

“Advocacy groups, including the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Dream Corps, believe the Temporary Emergency Bail Schedule will save lives for those in jail because, instead of placing inmates into a small cell and risking the spread of COVID-19, they are released and allowed to distance themselves from others.”

People Fail to Appear in Court, but Judge Lets Them Go on ‘Zero Bail’ because of Pandemic

Should California end cash bail? Ads begin for November ballot fight

“COVID-19 revealed just how quickly that could change, advocates say. When California eliminated bail for low-level crimes to reduce health risks for detainees, some jail populations shrank by 60 percent, said Jessica Bartholow, Policy Advocate for Western Center on Law & Poverty. Overall, the state jailed about one-third fewer people.”

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California Courts set emergency bail schedule to $0 for most offenses

The Judicial Council, the head of California Courts, has issued new rules during COVID-19, requiring an emergency bail schedule during the pandemic.

The new rule sets bail for people accused of a misdemeanor or low-level felony at $0 while they await trial. It names 13 felony violations that are exempt to the rule in which a judge can still use the county bail schedule, and references their state constitutional authority to deny bail under certain circumstances.

“Ending money bail has been a long-time advocacy position of Western Center and we are grateful for this temporary pause of the unconstitutional practice of denying people freedom while they await trial unless they can afford to pay bail,” said Jessica Bartholow, policy advocate at Western Center. “We are hopeful that the Judicial Council will ensure that bail data collected during this time, which is required by Senate Bill 36 and is intended to prevent and document racial bias in pre-trial jail detention decisions, will still be pursued and reported to the Legislature during the pandemic, and that the Council will work to permanently end money bail beyond the pandemic.”

“The Judicial Counsel’s decision to set an emergency bail schedule to $0, for most offenses, will save lives,” said Michael Mendoza, National Director at #cut50, a program of the Dream Corps. “We at #cut50 welcome this temporary solution during this pandemic and look forward to ending the practice of money bail as we move past the immediate risk of COVID-19’s rapid spread and toward a justice system that prioritizes healing and restoration over punishment. More needs to be done beyond this temporary measure to keep people in jails and prisons safe – and to reduce the number of people behind bars. We urge all local, state and federal lawmakers to continue taking urgent steps now, before more lives are needlessly lost.”

Governor approves bill to improve pretrial practices

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 36, written by Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), which regulates the use of pretrial risk assessment tools.

…“Money bail is unjust and unconstitutional and California’s justice system is failing us by allowing it to continue,” said Jessica Bartholow, of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “We are proud to support efforts to end money bail, but know that replacing it with a process that uses algorithms to determine whether a person is eligible for pretrial release leaves the system vulnerable to racism, classism and ableism. SB 36 is an important next step to de-incarcerating people prior to their determination of guilt and to making sure [we] do this without bias impacting the outcome. We are grateful for its signature.”

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