It’s a mixed bag for supporters of wide-ranging reforms to California’s money bail system.
While lawmakers won’t vote on a bill until next year, backers won the support of Gov. Jerry Brown and Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Friday.
The delay gives opponents in the bail industry more time to make their case against Senate Bill 10, which passed the Senate earlier this year. But the support of the governor and chief justice could mean the difference between success and failure for Oakland Assemblyman Rob Bonta, Los Angeles state Sen. Bob Hertzberg and the many civil rights groups that have been working to sideline a bail system they say punishes the poor.
Until the announcement, the governor had not publicly weighed in on the bail reform effort, but had privately expressed concerns about the potential costs of SB 10. It would have required counties to establish pretrial service agencies to make recommendations to courts about how people accused of crimes could be safely released as they await trial.
These agencies, which already exist in some California counties, could rely on risk assessment tools to recommend release conditions — including probation supervision or electronic monitoring — that didn’t include posting money bail.
On Friday, the governor mentioned fiscal concerns in a joint statement pledging to work on changes “that prioritize public safety and cost-efficiency.”
“I believe that inequities exist in California’s bail system and I look forward to working this fall on ways to reform the system in a cost-effective and fair manner, considering public safety as well as the rights of the accused,” he said.
The delay not only gives supporters more time to work on funding, but also means they will have the benefit of recommendations from a working group, set up by the chief justice to examine pretrial detention and possible changes. That group is expected to finish its work by the end of the year.
Both Bonta and Hertzberg said Friday that they’re happy to have more time, and high-profile support, to address this complicated issue.
“The truth is today, under the cash bail system, if you can write a check, public safety doesn’t matter,” Hertzberg said in a written statement. “Working with the Governor and the Chief Justice, we will find the right balance by fine-tuning the details in SB 10. This also gives us additional time to further investigate the bail market in California.”
Even some opponents of the current proposal praised the announcement. Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Eric Siddall, who has been an outspoken critic of SB 10, said he supports a move away from money bail, as long as it’s done right and includes input from law enforcement.
“This is the moment for this type of reform to happen. This is a good opportunity right now because I think there’s a lot of interest in bail and in how the criminal justice system functions,” he said.