The ACLU of California announced early on Monday that they had taken a step further than last week and come out in opposition to SB 10, the California Bail Reform ACT.
In a joint statement, the three Executive Directors of the California ACLU affiliates: Abdi Soltani (Northern California), Hector Villagra (Southern California), and Norma Chávez Peterson (San Diego & Imperial Counties), stated, “After further serious consideration, the ACLU of California has changed its position on the recently-amended SB 10 to oppose. As much as we would welcome an end to the predatory lending practices of the for-profit bail industry, SB 10 cannot promise a system with a substantial reduction in pretrial detention.
“Neither can SB 10 provide sufficient due process nor adequately protect against racial biases and disparities that permeate our justice system.
“Unfortunately, this amended version of SB 10 is not the model for pretrial justice and racial equity that the ACLU of California envisioned, worked for, and remains determined to achieve. We oppose the bill because it seeks to replace the current deeply-flawed system with an overly broad presumption of preventative detention. This falls short of critical bail reform goals and compromises our fundamental values of due process and racial justice.
“We nevertheless reiterate our commitment to working with the state legislature, and our partners and allies to create a strong, fair justice system for the benefit and wellbeing of all Californians.”
Under the bill, the current cash bail system will end October 2019 and be replaced by a pretrial release system.
Most non-violent offenders accused of misdemeanors would be released in 12 hours. Low risk offenders would be released on their own recognizance, without any supervision. Medium-risk defendants could be either released or detained depending on the county. And defendants charged with violent crimes or deemed high risk would remain in custody.
Senator Bob Hertzberg, one of the bills sponsors, called the measure “just and fair.”
In a statement Monday applauded the Assembly vote, he stated, “It is no secret that our criminal justice system has a host of issues that must be addressed. Eliminating wealth as a determination in pretrial detention would be a groundbreaking first step in making our criminal justice system fairer and safer.”
In the Jewish tradition, he explained, Pirkei Avot teaches us: “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
He added, “The California Legislature will continue to examine bail reform, and strengthen SB 10’s data collection and reporting requirements in order to evaluate our progress. I look forward to the future, when we can all look back at a time when we wrongly let for-profit businesses decide who stayed in jail.”
Assemblymember Rob Bonta stated, “Today’s vote is a clear victory for justice, fairness, and safety. We are now a giant step closer to becoming the first state in the nation to abolish the fundamentally broken for-profit, predatory money bail system.”
He continued, “SB 10 says justice should not favor the wealthy and punish the poor and that one should be evaluated on their individual conduct, facts and circumstances.”
“For too long, our criminal justice system has treated those who are guilty and rich better than those who are poor and innocent. No more,” Assemblymember Bonta stated. “Californians deserve a system that determines someone’s ability to be released pre-trial based on the size of their risk and not the size of their wallet.”
The ACLU issued one more statement following the vote.
“California has a moral obligation to replace the current two-tiered system of justice with a system that promotes pretrial justice and roots out racial inequality from our criminal justice system. Unfortunately, SB 10 will fail to ensure either. Instead, SB 10 will place far too much emphasis on the presumption of preventative detention.
“No one should be in jail because they are too poor to afford bail, but neither should they be torn apart from their family because of unjust preventative detention.”
SB 10 now goes back to the State Senate for concurrence before heading to the Governor’s desk.
—David M. Greenwald reporting