Bail Reform Advances in California

Two bail reform bills in the California legislature, by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), would essentially prevent criminal defendants from having to post money as a condition of release from jail and would shift some power from judges to pretrial services agencies to assess the risks they would pose if allowed out in the community.

Under the new legislation, counties would be required to establish pretrial services agencies to track inmates, remind them of court dates and develop “risk-assessment” tools to determine whether a defendant should be released. The programs, in use in other states, allow court and pretrial staff to use data and other evidence to determine whether a person is a risk to the public or likely to flee their charges.

In California, where at least two federal lawsuits over bail practices are pending, 2015 data from the Public Policy Institute of California found more than 60% of people in county jails were awaiting either trial or sentencing.

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