A few years ago, SB10 was passed in an attempt to replace cash bail with a different system that was designed to replace the bail industry. The bill would do so by incorporating the use of computer algorithms which would be used to determine an arrestee’s candidacy for release. The algorithm would take into account a variety of information about the arrestee and tell the police whether or not the individual should be held in custody.
Aside from the algorithm, the power of judges would be increased significantly. Judges would have the right to hold anyone they believe would be a danger to the community should they be released from jail. The judge’s decision would supersede the algorithm, so a person who was cleared by the algorithm may be held in custody by a judge.
The first problem with the proposed solution is that, after numerous studies, the algorithm police will use to determine a person’s eligibility for freedom is skewed heavily in favor of white arrestees. People of color are disproportionately held in custody by the computer program, meaning that even law enforcement computers can’t help but be racist.
Additionally, the expanded powers granted to judges can have a similar effect as there are no fail-safe mechanisms in place to ensure that a judge makes their ruling fairly. Prejudiced judges would have the full authority of the courts to hold anyone they want in jail, and with no bail industry, there will be no way for a defendant to get out of jail before their court date.
Being stuck in jail awaiting your day in court may not sound like that big of a deal. However, most defendants have to wait at least six months before their trial date – which means they’ll be held in custody until then, and if sentenced to jail time, will have to serve that, too.
If any of this sounds frightening to you – it should. It isn’t just people of color who need to fear the racist algorithms and all-powerful judges. What’s at stake here isn’t insignificant. The bail industry is responsible for more than just getting people out of jail. Much more. When someone is released from jail on a bail bond, they still have to show up for their day in court. While the defendant is free, it is a bail bondsman (not law enforcement) who keeps tabs on them and ensures they return to court at the appointed date and time. Since it takes so long for a defendant to get in front of a judge, the bail bondsman must shoulder whatever costs are associated with monitoring defendants, including the cost of having to track down someone who skips bail.
With no bail industry to keep tabs on defendants, who do you think the job is going to fall to? If you guessed the police, you’d probably be right. Police and probation departments would be overloaded with defendants they need to track down, keep tabs on, and ensure they go to court. The police are already hard-pressed to patrol the areas they’re needed now. Turning them into a defacto babysitter for defendants is going to require far more police than we currently have, and at a significant price tag.
If any of this sounds horrible (and it should), you still have a chance to stop the SB10 changes from becoming law. This fall, Proposition 25 has been put on the ballot to make SB10, and it’s racist algorithms and all-powerful judges, the law of the land. The bail industry would be gone and nobody would be able to help people get out of jail before their trial date, as well as monitor and track down anyone who attempts to flee. The police would be stuck shouldering the load, and you will be paying the bill for it.
Keep the proposition from upending California’s criminal justice system. Vote NO on Prop 25.