Last week the LA County District Attorney, Public Defender, and Alternate Public Defender released a report outlining steps for reforming the bail system and bringing the County into compliance with the California Supreme Court’s Humphrey decision which found current cash bail systems to be unconstitutional.
The report recommended 14 steps, including the establishment of an independent pretrial services division to ensure that those accused of crimes are linked to services and notified of upcoming trial dates, estimating the cost and identifying revenue sources for these services, and ensuring that comprehensive data about pretrial reforms are available to assure the effectiveness of the programs and services.
In response to the report, The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion that will expedite implementation of those recommendations. The inability to secure cash bail has consistently been found to disproportionately impact Black and Latinx communities, and negatively impact every accused person’s employment, housing and mental health. Individuals who cannot afford to post bail, and remain in detention pending trial, lose jobs, housing, and importantly, stabilizing relationships. Currently about 40% of the County’s jail population is in jail awaiting trial. Pretrial reforms, which include reforms to the cash bail system, have been implemented in many states across the country without jeopardizing public safety or increasing the rate at which individuals fail to appear in court.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion, said, “Last week’s report gave us a clear roadmap and to-do list for implementing bail reform and expanding pretrial services. There is no longer any question that unaffordable cash bail is not only unconstitutional, but often has devastating impacts on people accused of crimes who are simply too poor to post bail. This motion ensures that these 14 recommendations are implemented as quickly as possible.“
“The County’s efforts to explore pretrial reforms are rooted in the Board’s ‘Care First, Jail Last’ vision by addressing barriers imposed by the cash bail system,” shared Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair, Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor to the First District. “Cash bail is only one component of a larger carceral institution that impacts low-income residents who are predominantly Black and Latinx. This leads to an ongoing cycle of incarceration, homelessness, and unemployment, further exacerbating racial and systemic inequities. By providing resources during the pretrial phase, we can reduce the number of individuals who become incarcerated due to their inability to post cash bail.”
This action advances foundational recommendations outlined in the 2020 Alternatives to Incarceration Report, which was initiated by a motion led by Supervisor Kuehl, and established the blueprint for the County’s Care First, Jail Last justice-system reforms.