ACLU Flips to Opposition of Bail Reform Bill but SB 10 Passes Assembly

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.

Each county will be charged with coming up with its own system including which risk assessment tool  to use in order to determine whether the risk for release is low, medium or high.

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

Get Tickets To Vanguard’s Immigration Rights Event

Eventbrite - Immigration Law: Defending Immigrant Rights and Keeping Families Together

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts


  1. Tia Will


    I am not understanding. Can you explain to me as though I were a five year old what the ACLU’s issue with “preventative detention” is?  It seems to me that deciding who is dangerous to the community and who is not should be key to who is released pretrial. Is it the relatively arbitrary nature of the county by county determination? Or is there something else I am missing?

    1. David Greenwald

      The question is what should determine who is eligible for release.  I think the concern by the ACLU is that these change give greater discretion to judges over conditions for all prisoners in a practice known as “preventive detention,” allowing them to decide which people are a danger to the community and should be held without the possibility of release.  I think their preference is for the use of a risk assessment tool that offers greater protections.  I’ll try to get clarification.

    2. Howard P

      Tia… one person’s “arbitrary”, is another person’s “reasoned judgement”… as long as we are dealing with humans, see no way around that ‘conflict’… generally, reasoned judgement should be explained as to how reason was applied, and defended unless reasonably refuted… no, you’re older than 5, and you well know about the differences between the two, in your field.  It is critical to defend against malpractice claims…

      1. PhilColeman

        Tia, you have a far higher ability to reason and understand beyond that of a 5-year-old. The ACLU mindset, however, now that’s up for serious discussion.

        To again repeat, this once this august body of legal minds would present reasoned and often persuasive arguments on a variety of legal issues. Some of their writings were copied and published verbatim as part of an appellate court ruling. Some of our most distinguished past jurists rose to prominence in the ACLU hierarchy. Now, they are so “whiny” and the writings sound like apprentice script writers for soap operas and scandal magazines.

        The ACLU has a hissy-fit because a bill,  ” . . .  cannot promise a system with a substantial reduction in pretrial detention.” No legislation can give promise the desired solution. It’s basically like, “We didn’t get everything we wanted, so we’re going to stop the game and take the ball and go home.” Well, goodby.

        This says it all: “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.”

        The ACLU wants total control over the process of preventive detention. THEY want to set the course of review, and nobody else need to be involved. Such arrogance.

        1. Jim Hoch

          The ACLU seems to prefer to make release determinations based on politics rather than safety. We’ve seen how that works in SF (spoiler alert – bystander death).

  2. Tia Will

    Ok guys. I know my own powers of reasoning.

    What you don’t know is my current limited reading ability. I just had minor eye surgery and can only keep my eyes open so long. I didn’t know what I might have missed.

    But thanks for the explanations, and the laugh.

    1. PhilColeman

      In these tulmultous times, with headlines daily that would normally be spread out over the course of a year, a laugh now and then is the best “prescribed medicine.” Doctors usually make the worst patients. May you have a speedy recovery from your peeper surgery.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for