Behind closed doors, California’s lawmakers made last minute changes to SB 10—a proposed bail reform bill—granting enhanced powers to judges including the power to put civilians in jail pretrial without a meaningful hearing. Most groups who initially supported the bill pulled out their support after the changes were made public.
The bill passed.
Bail Agents and Prosecutors Work to Protect Civilian Rights
The Californians Against the Reckless Bail Scheme Coalition collected more than 575,000 signatures in 70 days to fight the bail reform bill in the November 2020 elections. Until then, the bill has been officially put on hold.
“We knew with the momentum against this law from people on all sides of the issue, getting on the ballot would not be the problem,” said Jeff Clayton, executive director of the American Bail Coalition. “Now we can move on toward defeating this reckless law.”
During this brief hold, a group of leaders in the Californian criminal justice system began a review of the pretrial detention progress to identify possible improvements.
While many agree that a creative look at the pretrial problem is needed, people on both sides of the bail reform issue have taken a stance against California’s SB 10 bill, which relies heavily on flawed risk assessment tools.
“This measure has a lot of repercussions and we should respect the will of the people,” Assemblyman Devon Mathis said. “As of late, it feels like California has forgotten about its duty to its citizens.”
The Inherent Flaw in Risk Assessment Tools
As we’ve found in Texas, risk assessment tools are only as perfect as the people who enter the data and use the tools. With many areas for error, Texan, and now Californian, courts have seen violent offenders categorized as low-risk and those with seemingly minor offenses categorized as dangerous.
“When the police and ACLU are against it, you know there’s a problem,” said Visalia attorney John Sarsfield in an article in the Visalia Times Delta.
These errors have disastrous implications for citizens and suspects with minor infractions. Harris County in Texas has suffered a higher rate of no-show court appearances, repeat offenders, and dangerous criminals being released back into society because of these inherently flawed risk assessment tools.
“This bill is extremely dangerous. Simply put, it places tremendous weight on risk assessments, and zero responsibility on the individual to even show up in court,” Mathis said. “It provides zero funding or authority for individuals whose job it is to find those who skip their court dates to even bring them back.”
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux agreed.
“The bail system has a way of ensuring that people show up to court, which is a crucial part of the judicial process,” he said. “Without it, we run the risk of finding ourselves as a society with more criminals on the streets, creating a tougher job for law enforcement.”