KQED

Lawmakers Aim to Limit Cash Bail, Say it ‘Punishes Poor for Being Poor’

March 27, 2017

By Marisa Lagos

All California counties would have to offer an alternative to cash bail under details of a bill that two Democratic lawmakers are revealing Monday.

The proposal, first announced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Senator Bob Hertzberg in December, is sure to set up a big legislative fight in the Capitol. In interviews with KQED News, both lawmakers said they are aiming to make the criminal justice system more effective and fair by ensuring that jails aren’t packed with people awaiting trial who simply couldn’t afford to post bail.

Assembly Bill 42 would require, in most cases, that counties conduct a pretrial risk assessment after someone is arrested. That scientifically based assessment would consider not just the current accusations, but the arrestee’s entire history and life situation. It would also include recommendations to a judge for their conditions of release. A judge would consider the report and decide whether to release the person, and if so, what conditions they will have to abide by.

People accused of violent felonies such as murder would not be eligible for the program, known as pretrial release. If a judge decides pretrial conditions won’t guarantee that a defendant will come back to court, the bill allows judges to set money bail at the “least restrictive level.”

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