By Esha Kher and Aziza Nussipov
STATE CAPITOL – Joint legislation calling for a removal of the adverse burden put on low income residents by California’s money bail system is on the table this week in the State Legislature.
State Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, and Senator Nancy Skinner are leading the fight for the longstanding advocacy of grassroots and community organizers of the Justice LA Coalition.
Justice LA, an abolitionist coalition of organizations for decarceration, has long advocated for 0$ bail. The grassroots coalition has been applying pressure on the California Judicial Council to enact statewide 0$ bail and was responsible for mobilizing voters to reject Prop. 25, which would have been harmful to Senate Bill 10.
SB10 is a bill that measures the need for detention by risk, and not lack of money.
Lex Steppling, Director of Campaigns and Policy at Dignity and Power Now and Co-Chairperson of the Committee Against Pretrial Racism, says, “Grassroots and community power and opposition to Prop 25 made this legislative move possible. This new legislation represents a potential step forward, in which we all get to be aligned, and is happening because of the defeat of Prop 25 and its massive popular support, not in spite of it.”
Furthermore, Justice LA argues that at the beginning of the pandemic, thanks to pressure from community members, the Judicial Council approved of a 0$ bail in order to decrease the risks of spreading COVID-19 in jails. As a result, Justice LA says, “we didn’t see an increase in crime follow.
“Instead, people were able to return home to their communities to prepare for their case without experiencing the harms of pretrial detention,” Justice LA noted. “The legislation proposed also requires bail bonds companies to refund bail to all people who make all of their court appearances who are not eligible for $0 bail.”
Justice LA acknowledges this legislation as a “first step,” even calling it “an extension of what we have already seen to be successful in practice, as well as what we know promotes the basic human rights and presumption of innocence of all of our community members.
“Disturbingly, the bail bonds industry fallaciously claimed, ‘No on 25’ as a victory,” Justice LA remarks, “yet, we knew that instating risk assessments through Prop 25 would have been far more damaging to our communities due to the power the Prop would have bestowed on judges and probation.”
Prop. 25 was a “victory for human rights and for our communities, this victory was based on people power and strong grassroots base building,” insists Justice LA.
This cash-bail legislation marks a huge improvement in decreasing unfair incarceration in the community, maintains Justice LA, which has long advocated to preserve the presumption of innocence and, to them, “seeing legislators, like Assemblymember Bonta, adopt language about preserving that presumption indicates that they are understanding why our communities need comprehensive pretrial reform.”
Dolores Canales, the Outreach Director at the Bail Project, pushes for directing “funding for community based services over probation” that address the “larger issues of incarceration before trial and racial disparities.”
Esha Kher is an undergraduate student at UC Davis studying Political Science and Computer Science, hoping to pursue a career in corporate law. She is passionate about legal journalism and political advocacy that provokes new perspectives and sparks conversation among the public. When she is not reporting for The Davis Vanguard, Esha is either trying out a new YouTube workout or reading a book on late modern philosophy.
Aziza Nussipov is a junior at UC Davis majoring in Political Science.She is also a DJ for a freeform radio station, KDVS 90.3FM, and a part of the ASUCD Gender and Sexuality Commission.
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