KQED News

Push to Limit Money Bail Gains Steam in California

May 23, 2017

By Marisa Lagos and Sukey Lewis

Every year in California, nearly 1 million people are arrested and booked into jail.

Their freedom before they go to trial often hinges on a century-old money bail system that critics say favors the rich: If you can pay, you’re free — and if you can’t, you’re stuck behind bars.

Now, California has joined a push for reform that spans at least two dozen other states. Legislation making its way through both the California State Senate and Assembly would move away from cash bail, instead directing courts to release most people if they don’t pose a risk to public safety and are likely to show up to their court date.

The legislation is sponsored by two Democrats: Los Angeles Sen. Bob Hertzberg and Oakland Assemblyman Rob Bonta, with 15 other lawmakers signed on as co-sponsors — including one Republican. They argue that more than 60 percent of California jail beds are filled with people who have not been convicted of a crime, and that many of them would be at home with their families if only they could afford to bail out.

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