CA Governor’s Revised May Budget Includes $140 Million Investment in  ‘Flawed’ Pretrial Pilot Programs



By Kelly Luo

LOS ANGELES, CA – Gov. Gavin Newsom has released a record-breaking $267.8 billion May revision proposal for the state budget with $140 million of the funds going into the expansion of pretrial pilot programs for 2021-22 and more further down the line.

Announcing this revision, the Care First CA Coalition released a critical explanation of issues that may arise with the increased investment of the proposed pretrial programs.

Governor Newsom’s May Budget revision dramatically expanded the scope of California’s faltering pretrial programs, the Coalition states, which now include $140 million in 2021-22 and $70 million in 2022-2023.

The funds will go to courts that previously did not receive funding, and the remaining $70 million will go to the Judicial Council.

The Care First California Coalition acknowledges that pretrial detention is notorious for punishing people who are presumed innocent, arguing, “Both the immediate impacts of detention and the much longer lasting record of conviction can be significant.”

Some documented concerns include costing the public money, and the potential to coerce people into guilty pleas because prosecutors and judges are willing to give them freedom in exchange for their guilty pleas.

Although the funding for our state’s correctional system has increased, leaving room for a lot of expansive rehabilitation programs and further improvement, the announcement of the budget revision indicates that the Governor’s proposed investment in the probation-led pretrial programs is erroneous in several ways.

The Coalition holds that the Judicial Council’s expansion of its pretrial pilot programs is contrary to the will of California’s voters.

In response to Senate Bill 10, the council created the pilot programs to implement the same system as Prop 25, which was rejected by the voters in November 2020. The pilot programs expanded the use of biased risk assessments tools (RATs) by probation departments.

Additionally, the Coalition stated that people who have been given the opportunity to participate in a pretrial program have chosen to remain in jail instead of being released.

The Coalition said some judges tend to “override” the RAT score in order to impose more restrictive conditions on pretrial release. These conditions often involve a search and seizure at any time, and they can create a standard of guilt until proven innocent.

According to the Coalition, the state’s continued expansion of probation-led pretrial pilots undermines public safety and budgetary concerns.

There is little to no data to track the record of effectiveness on the expansion of these programs, notes the Coalition, adding it undermines the integrity of the judicial process and the rights of individuals to a fair trial and perpetuates over-incarceration by creating scenarios where people can be detained for missing a probation meeting regardless of personal issues.

The Coalition believes that it is in violation of the presumption of innocence which  is a fundamental right that every American should have.

The rapid emergence and evolution of California’s pretrial services system has raised concerns about the overuse of probation and the ability of judges to incarcerate people without due process.

The Care First California coalition stated that “funding probation-led pretrial programs is not the answer,” and changing the law may be a solution to ensure that people get the help they need while protecting the presumption of innocence.

This includes “preventing judges from imposing burdensome release conditions, like electronic monitoring and drug testing, that set people up for re-incarceration. It should establish pretrial services agencies, independent of law enforcement, that help people get to court while ensuring safety for all people involved.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Hertzberg’s bill, SB 262, would set bail at $0 for most offenses, and it would also limit the ability of judges to detain people without a warrant.

The Coalition stated that this bill “is a start to fixing some of the reform needs highlighted by the Humphrey decision.” One of these is the ability to pay determination.

County governments funding for community-based pretrial services models can be more cost-effective and provide better results than traditional trial models.

Using interview-based models and social workers, as well as targeted support services, such as text reminders, are proving to be effective in creating a fair and sustainable pretrial justice system.

“We must fund effective community-led pretrial programs that provide support and protect public safety, legislate limits that make the criminal legal system fairer, and that honor and preserve the presumption of innocence,” said the Coalition.

However, in the Statewide Initiative to Reduce Pretrial Detention section of the Budget Summary, the Administration highlights that their goal in addressing these issues include “efficiently minimizing pretrial detention while maintaining public safety and these essential measures will reduce racial and socio-economic disparities in the criminal justice system and reduce unnecessary incarceration.”

And they assured that the resources will help “support judicial officers in making pretrial release decisions that impose the least restrictive conditions while maintaining public safety and assisting individuals in returning to court.”

Although Gov. Newsom had an optimistic goal of transforming the state’s correctional system and rehabilitating incarcerated individuals to prepare them for life outside of the institution.

The Care First California Coalition argues that there are many more improvements that can be made to the probation-led pretrial programs that should be tackled first before expanding on such a big investment.

Hello, my name is Kelly and I am an upcoming senior transfer student from UC Davis. I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in the study of Sociology w/ Law Emphasis. My interests are mainly listening to podcasts on social issues, criminal justice, mythology etc. During my free time, I volunteer as a foster for our school’s vet program and I paint.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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