In a motion authored by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley Thomas, the Board of Supervisors reaffirmed Los Angeles County’s strong commitment to bail reform and formalized support for Senate Bill 10, also known as the California Money Bail Reform Act of 2017.
Senate Bill 10 seeks to balance a defendant’s constitutional right to be free from excessive bail with the protection of the public and assurance of a defendant’s appearance in court. Fundamentally, the bill reforms California’s money bail system by ensuring that people are not held in jail merely because they cannot afford the bail to buy their freedom.
There is strong public support for SB 10, including the NAACP, the ACLU, various criminal justice organizations, and public defenders, underlining just how broken the system has become. Indeed, earlier this year, the First District Court of Appeal of California declared current bail-setting practices to be unconstitutional.
There are good reasons that bail reform is gaining momentum in Los Angeles and across the country. Being held for even a few days in jail can lead to someone losing their job, losing child custody, or eviction. In some cases, people are held in jail for days, weeks, and even months while they await trial. Sadly, it is usually more impoverished communities that are hit the hardest by the money bail system.
A statement by SB 10’s author, Senator Bob Hertzberg, puts it best: “Simply put, the current bail system is unconstitutional. That belief is what got me involved in bail reform in the first place. I am encouraged that the Court has joined our Chief Justice in recognizing that the current system? is not based on flight risk or risk to public safety, but on how much you can pay. The decision highlights the urgent need for systemic reform at the statewide level.”
The current money bail system underscores the fact that the justice system in the United States is two-tiered and more severely punishes people living in poverty. The Board of Supervisors strongly supports the proposed California Money Bail Reform Act of 2017 or SB 10, as it would be an essential step in providing more effective and equitable alternatives to our current bail system.