The American Civil Liberties Union of California is alleging that an attempt to overhaul the state’s bail system has become an avenue for racial injustice and violations of due process.
SB 10, sponsored by Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, was passed on Monday by the Assembly. That same day, former supporters such as the ACLU and the Human Rights Watch withdrew their support, saying that it gave courts too much power in deciding who would be released while awaiting trial.
Rather than keeping people accused of crimes locked in jails awaiting trial, because they could not afford a bail bond, the new law lifts that requirement and allows local courts to create their own evaluation system for deciding who can be safely released. People accused of non-violent misdemeanors would be released within 12 hours after being booked, with some exceptions.
However, allowing local courts to create evaluation systems could lead to pre-existing biases dominating the release process.
“In other words, the same judges who were found in [San Francisco’s Humphrey case] to be using money bail to unlawfully hold people in custody without possibility of release, are simply given the power to do so without having to set a bail amount,” Jasmine Tyler and John Raphling with the Human Rights Watch wrote in a statement released Aug. 14.
The Humphrey case pitted San Francisco resident Kenneth Humphrey against a $350,000 bail, which he could not afford to pay. Humphrey was held for nearly a year before the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled that his $350,000 bail was excessive and unfair.
Humphrey’s case, and others like it, drove prosecutors and lawmakers alike to take a closer look at bail, and do their best to fix what many said was a broken system.