(January 27, 2021) LOS ANGELES – Today, California Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), and Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced SB 262 in the Senate and AB 329 in the Assembly, bills that would reset to zero the presumptive bail amount for most people accused of misdemeanors and low-level felonies in California. Following the introduction of these bills, The Bail Project issued the following statement:
“As California struggles to contain COVID-19, this critical bill would help mitigate the crisis by preventing tens of thousands of people from cycling unnecessarily through overcrowded jails just because they cannot afford bail.
COVID-19 cases have exploded in California’s correctional facilities, creating raging hotspots that put entire communities at risk – particularly Black and Latino – and add even more pressure to an already overwhelmed hospital system. California has taken some emergency measures to reduce the incarcerated population, but much more is needed. Stopping the influx of people who cannot afford bail into county jails is a critical strategy that must be incorporated.
Following last year’s $0 bail rule, a review of data from several of California’s Bay Area counties demonstrated low rates of recidivism, contrary to claims by law enforcement. It is also clear from The Bail Project’s work in Los Angeles County and across the nation that cash bail is not necessary to ensure high rates of return to court. Using court notifications, transportation assistance, and voluntary referrals to social services, we have supported nearly 15,000 people nationally in returning to court for the vast majority of their court dates, even though they had no financial obligation to do so.
There remains an important discussion to be had about the future of pretrial reform in California and the controversial use of pretrial algorithms to decide who is sent to jail before trial. In the interim, this bill is a practical and positive step toward eliminating cash bail and reducing reliance on the bail bond industry, and we strongly urge its passage.”