California’s Chief Justice Calls for End to Money Bail

Chief Justice Money Bail ReportOn Tuesday, October 24, California’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye released a report calling for massive reform to the state’s money bail system and admitting that holding suspects in jail simply because they cannot afford to pay bail is unfair to people who are poor.

Phil Telfeyan, Executive Director of Equal Justice Under Law and the lead attorney in Buffin v. San Francisco (our federal class action lawsuit challenging pretrial money bail in California) said:

“I applaud Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye’s working group for recognizing the fundamentally unfair qualities of the money bail system and calling for an end to the discriminatory practice.  The current system amounts to wealth-based detention, and the working group’s recommendations are an important step in ending pretrial poverty jailing.

“I caution that, while the working group recommends ‘risk-based assessment,’ computerized risk assessment programs have the potential to discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities.  Computerized risk assessment programs can also overestimate someone’s level of ‘risk’ before they have been convicted of any crime.  It is critical that, at all stages, we ensure that each individual’s right to pretrial freedom is maximized.

“Ending money bail in California will no doubt encourage other states to follow suit; however, we still have much more work to do. The American money bail system needs to come to an end, not only in California, but in every state in the nation. No person should spend even one day in jail simply because he or she is poor. That’s why Equal Justice Under Law is fighting hard to bring this discriminatory system to an end by bringing legal challenges across the country to end this unconstitutional practice, which creates two separate systems of justice: one for the rich and one for everyone else.”

To read more about the report, see “California’s Chief Justice Wants Bail System Overhauled” in SF Gate and “California’s Chief Justice Calls for End to Cash Bail System” by Courthouse News Service