For years, the California State government, in tandem with cities and locales, has sought criminal justice reform. One of the biggest, most impactful changes made in recent years cam with the passage of Prop 47, which reduced the severity of several non-violent felonies down to misdemeanors, which did not necessarily require incarceration. Instead, arrestees would go through the arrest and booking process, and then be issued a citation with a date and time to return to court.
While Prop 47 was instrumental in reducing the state’s population of incarcerated criminals, it didn’t do much to help those who were not eligible for pretrial release. So, later on, SB10 was passed.
SB10 did away with cash bail and instead granted judges sweeping powers regarding who can and cannot be released from custody before their trial. Additionally, since police departments will no longer be charged with setting a defendant’s bail, a computer algorithm is used to determine a defendant’s eligibility for bail before they even see a judge. While it may seem efficient to give enhanced powers to judges, there is no fail-safe in place to keep a judge from acting on their prejudices. For example, a judge with a low opinion of Latinos may deem more of them a danger to the community than they would a defendant of another background.
Not only are defendants at the mercy of computer programs and judges, but the algorithms used by law enforcement have also been proven to be wildly racist. The algorithm has, time and time again, showed a clear bias against people of color, disproportionately condemning people of color to remain in police custody before their court date.
Fortunately, citizens and bail industry professionals were able to put a hold on SB10 and initiate investigations into whether or not SB10 will actually improve life.
In the upcoming election, Prop 25 will be placed on the ballot so that voters can decide how the state proceeds with bail reform. If Prop 25 passes, it won’t just wipe out cash bail; the entire bail industry and the services it provides will be gone.
The job of a bail bondsman extends well beyond getting people out of jail. Once a defendant is released, it is up to the bail bondsman to keep tabs on them and ensure that they appear in court at the appointed date and time. Additionally, should the defendant choose to skip bail and refuses to go to court, it is the bail bondsman (not the police). The bail industry exists to that the cost and manpower needed to monitor defendants does not all fall on the police and courts.
Should bail be eliminated, and by extension the bail industry, the job of bail bondsmen will fall immediately on the local and county police force. They will have no time to hire additional personnel, nor create and put in place systems that are designed to take over the job of monitoring defendants from bail bondsmen.
With additional responsibilities come additional costs. The extra police, judges, jail space, and court services will all need to be paid for by taxpayers. For years, the LAPD and LASD have asked for funding for additional officers to perform the duties they have now. Adding an avalanche of responsibility to an already beleaguered police force is going to sow the seeds of chaos come election day.
Voting NO ON PROP 25 Will keep the bail industry where it belongs – releasing inmates, monitoring them, and, when necessary, skip tracing (catching people who skip bail and bringing them back to court). Should the referendum pass, the bail industry and the important role it plays in the criminal justice system will be wiped out in one fell swoop, leading to more criminals on the streets and leaving people in jail who don’t need to be there.
SB10 was a vile, ham-fisted attempt at criminal justice reform by those who unfairly vilify the bail industry. Bail bondsmen are not responsible for the high cost of bail, nor do we have any say in who does and does not get released from jail. We only bail out those who are eligible – not violent criminals or those who would otherwise be a danger to the community. Additionally, we will bail out anyone who is approved for a bail bond regardless of their color or creed.