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Bail reform opponents and the big money interests behind them will have you believe that supporting SB10, the California Money Bail Reform Act of 2017, is a safety risk. That’s simply not true. SB10 will not eliminate the bail system but restructure it. Leaving current bail systems in place for individuals charged with more serious crimes, SB10 will enable those who haven’t yet been convicted of any crime to get out of jail without having to pay outrageous fees issued by California courts. Hardworking individuals will be able to go on with their lives while charges are pending against them.

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Thousands of people who haven’t been convicted of a crime are kept in jail. The courts have the power to stop this criminal attack against poor people today, and it wouldn’t cost them a dime to do it.

In 2016, out of 16,500 inmates in Los Angeles County Jails alone, 39% were in pretrial, sitting in jail because they could not afford the often unobtainable bail set for them. Across the state, roughly 46,000 Californians wait behind bars simply because they cannot afford to bail out of jail. Many would otherwise be in school or working and supporting their families.

In particular, the current money bail system marginalizes people of color, who face costly bails that only the well-to-do can afford. And, as they sit in jail waiting to see a judge, their families are left without support, too often crumbling under the strain. To make matters worse, bail money is only returned if it is paid in full up front.

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And who gets the $14 billion paid each year for bail in California? Insurance corporations, who are making a killing on the backs of poor people—and who are fighting SB10 with every weapon in their arsenal.

The courts want you to believe that bondsmen control this bail bond system. But it's the courts that set these fees. As we've seen, this system drives racial and economic disparities in low-income neighborhoods where you see bail bonds offices clustered around jails. Individuals are often coerced into taking plea deals under threat of harsher prosecutions, so innocent people get locked up, adding substantially to our mass incarceration crisis.

Recently, the Judicial Council recommended eliminating the middleman—bail bondsmen—to impose a county-by-county risk assessment program. But taxpayers do not need another expensive, broken-down system designed to oppress the people, costing a whopping $2 billion to $3.5 billion annually.

Solutions like SB10 will keep our economy moving. Join the fight to end money bail in California.

lisa james

Lisa James
All of Us Or None