Bail Reform Compromise Turns Supporters Into Opponents.

posted by Kris Ankarlo - @KrisAnkarlo - 

Some of the original supporters of a bail reform measure in California have bailed out of a compromise.

The bill, SB-10, introduced by State Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), would make California the first state to end cash bail. When it was originally introduced in 2016, it was supported by groups like the ACLU and the California Public Defenders Association. The original bill was shelved as a compromise was worked out with Gov. Jerry Brown and court representatives.

The new compromise bill emerged last week and was approved by a state assembly committee. It keeps the elimination of cash bail, but it introduces an evaluation tool to determine whether a defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the public. Based on that assessment, a judge would decide whether someone should be held.

Supporters of the compromise bill say it would end the dual system of justice where lower-income defendants face financial ruin or are forced to sit in jail.

"Harvey Weinstein would still be detained and wouldn't be able to write a check to get out," said Hertzberg at a news conference announcing the compromise last week.

The expanded powers granted to judges are what have turned some supporters into opponents.

"It's about giving judges the power to hold people in custody with no chance of release," says Human Rights Watch researcher John Raphling.

The compromise also gives more local control to judges and probation officers. A pre-trial assessment would sort defendants into low, medium and high-risk categories. Low-risk defendants would be released, high-risk defendants would be detained. The courts would decide what to do with medium-risk defendants. Judges would be able to use a mechanism called "preventive detention" to keep certain defendants locked up. Raphling says the assessment tool is based on an algorithm that will be racially biased.

"They use proxies for race, things like zip codes," said Raphling. "It's essentially done like redlining."

Supporters of SB 10 say the reporting required from the counties will root out racial bias.

LA Community Action Network Executive Director Paul White says the original spirit of SB 10 was born of movements to stop mass incarceration and deportation. White says the new language in the bill is a setback from those goals.

"We believe, that if the Constitution still believes that you're innocent until proven guilty, that you should be able to prove your innocence not in handcuffs, but at home."

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