California Votes Down Proposition That Would Have Eliminated Cash Bail

California voters rejected Proposition 25, a ballot measure that would have made the state the first in the U.S. to discard the cash bail system entirely.

What We Know:

  • Proposition 25 aimed to implement a system that eradicated the use of bail money. Had Californians voted “yes”, judges would employ computerized risk assessment to determine whether someone should be held until trial. The Association Press reported 45% of voters supported the measure and 55% of voters opposed it.
  • The new system was originally approved by the state Legislator in 2018 set to be effective in October 2019. The billion-dollar bail bond industry halted the law putting it on hold until voters could weigh in on the decision.
  • Presently anyone arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors could spend more than two days in jail if deemed dangerous by a judge. This measure would have allowed them to be released within 12 hours of the arrest and maintain freedom until trial. Judges would have assessed a defendant’s flight risk and possible threat to the public for other misdemeanors and felony charges using the factors such as arrest records, work history, drug use, and community ties.
  • Opposers of Prop 25 were concerned the risk assessment tools used by judges would be inherently biased. Human Rights Watch and ACLU of Southern California gave warning the assessment relied on data influenced by the criminal justice system’s unequal criminalization of people of color. Judges would essentially have unlimited disposition to incarcerate.
  •  Bail money ensures people show up to their trial date and do not commit any more crime prior; however the system has been chastised for motivating socioeconomic injustice. Supporters of the measure believe the current cash bail system encourages classist and racist behavior.
  • Often defendants with the financial ability are able to pay for their release while poor defendants have no choice but to await trial in jail. Studies have made clear bail amounts are consistently higher for Black defendants than they are for white defendants. Even in cases where they have committed similar crimes and hold similar criminal histories. Public Policy Institute of California predicted predicted about 49% of Black people who were booked would be held for risk assessment, in comparison to 37% of whites.

Criminal justice reform groups do not plan to end their stride to change the current bail system. They hope to try other methods that avoid a harmful approach.

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