California’s bail system disproportionately affects low-income people and people of color, and needs to be reformed, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) reported.
A bail industry representative said that their services provide public safety and “enhance racial justice” in a hearing held by the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color to reform the California’s bail system.
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
Contrary to the bail industry’s claim, panelists and community members of the hearing said that the bail system works to keep low-income people in jail and negatively impacts people of color, the CJCJ wrote.
According to the CJCJ, the bail system is used as leverage to force defendants to take plea deals resulting in jail overcrowding by holding people who are not a public safety risk but cannot afford bail.
There are courts that have pre-trial diversion programs that allow people the opportunity to return to their homes, jobs and families while awaiting trial. Some diversion programs even offer high-risk people the same opportunity if they agreed to be monitored, the CJCJ noted.
Beyond cost, the risk assessment process also fills the jails. For example, the common use of the Public Safety Assessment tool (PSA), created by the Arnold Foundation, considers only negative factors such as pending charges, previous incarceration, and failure to appear to calculate an individual’s risk, the CJCJ reported.
Calling for bail reform, the CJCJ said “California bail reform advocates and policymakers should support legislation that requires all counties to establish and implement evidence-based and data-driven pre-trial diversion programs.”