The debate in California over the benefits and risks of ending cash bail has been loud ever since the California Supreme Court ruled that the existing bail system was unconstitutional. On August 28th, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill abolishing cash bail into law, with the rules and regulations scheduled to be implemented next fall. However, many advocates for ending cash bail are concerned that the new law will actually increase pretrial detention.
When cash bail is eliminated, judges will begin to use computer software to determine if suspects are a threat do public safety or a flight risk. The software is expected to look at numerous piece of information about the suspect and the alleged crimes and assign a low, medium, or high risk value. However, the results of the valuation are still subject to judicial oversight. Prosecutors will be able to pursue pretrial detention for any defendant, and judges could ignore the software’s analysis and jail anyone facing a crime. Many criminal justice advocates believe that SB 10 is a recipe for more pretrial detentions and possible racial or socioeconomic discrimination.
The algorithm to determine whether or not someone should face pretrial detention is not yet determined, and SB 10 is not clear in what is acceptable. It’s possible that the criteria will be different in every California county, leading to an uneven application of justice. It is likely that the new law will face litigation prior to being implemented.
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