By Kapish Kalita
LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore testified in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of money bail (where the accused pays a preset amount to be released from jail before their first court hearing) – Moore argued for money bail, believing it creates “consequences for going out and committing serious offenses, felony offenses,” that dissuade criminal activity.
According to a Los Angeles Times editorial, Moore’s argument is a typical example of law enforcement’s view on money bail, which has become an increasingly debated topic within Los Angeles, especially following the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s new Pre-Arraignment Release Protocol, which will eliminate money bail in the county.
The Times noted “at least” two major problems with Moore’s argument.
First, the editorial said bail only applies to individuals who do not have the ability to pay their bail. And, second, bail punishes individuals by placing them in jail before they’ve been charged, which is tyrannical in nature.
“A system that imposes punishment based on arrest, before the accused has an opportunity to present a defense in court, is tyranny,” the Times wrote.
But this punishment, or more importantly, the lack of it for those who pay their bail, has created frustration, added the editorial.
Noting people are angered by the ability of criminals to immediately reenter society, and potentially avoid trial after committing misdeeds, with L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna believing, “Seeing people released immediately after an arrest negatively impacts the credibility of our justice system, and unfortunately this does happen repeatedly.”
The Times wrote modern reality of money bail began in the ’70s, when in an era of high crime, Congress, and states shortly after, altered monetary bail to its current state. As more individuals were jailed, prison populations grew massively, as well as crime.
“Jail overcrowding exacerbates already poor conditions,” argued the Times, noting that in “Atlanta’s notorious Fulton County Jail, where Donald Trump paid his bail earlier this year, several inmates with no money for bail have recently died in abhorrent conditions. Thirty-three people have died in L.A.’s jails so far this year. It’s a similar story in virtually every U.S. jail.”
The Times added that “studies demonstrate serious and lasting damage to people held under such conditions for even a few days. Sending a person there for inability to pay, regardless of intention, is at least as punitive…Moore’s testimony suggests that punishment is, indeed, intended. Police unions, elected officials who oppose bail reform and representatives of the bail industry insist that money bail keeps us safe by putting the bad guys in jail — before they are convicted.”
The Times added the “tug-of-war between police and bail reformers continues. Since the Superior Court unveiled its new pretrial program in July, Moore, Luna and others in law enforcement have lobbied the judges to give police more power to seek exceptions in order to avoid releasing some suspects who are otherwise eligible to be simply cited with an instruction to appear in court on the proper date.”
The county’s “improved pretrial justice program should erase the twin failures of the current system: parceling out liberty based on wealth, which is a violation of the guarantee of equal protection, and imposing punishment without trial, a violation of the presumption of innocence and the guarantee of due process. At the same time, it should provide individualized supervision and services for defendants pretrial without unnecessarily locking them up,” the Times concluded.