San Francisco’s Unjust Bail System Will End

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Proposed Settlement Will Remove Price Tag on Freedom

Individuals arrested in San Francisco will no longer be assigned a price tag on their freedom.  On Friday, August 30th, Equal Justice Under Law and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy filed a proposed settlement that will finally put an end to San Francisco’s discriminatory and arbitrary bail system.

Equal Justice Under Law, a national law non-profit based in Washington, D.C., filed its lawsuit to end San Francisco’s unfair use of money bail in October 2015. On March 4, 2019 federal judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers declared the city’s bail schedule unconstitutional, and today’s settlement proposal spells out how the city will end its bail schedule. A final order from the judge is expected in the coming weeks.

With last week’s proposed settlement, all people who are charged with misdemeanors or non-serious felonies can be released within 18 hours—not just those who could afford to pay money. Law enforcement also has the right to seek an additional 12 hours  of detention if it believes someone to be a danger, and the superior court or pre-trial diversion could order that a person remain in jail. For serious felonies, individuals will be held until they are seen by a judge but may submit an application for consideration of release, which a judge will review.

Equal Justice Under Law Executive Director, Phil Telfeyan, stated, “Judge Gonzalez Rogers recognized that it is inherently unfair for the criminal justice system to decide who is jailed and who goes free based purely on someone’s wealth. This case should effectively put all the bail companies in San Francisco out of business, finally vindicating the constitutional rights of countless people who have been jailed solely because of their inability to pay money bail.” If the Judge agrees to the proposed settlement, the changes are expected to take effect 180 days after the judge’s final ruling. The new policies will only affect people who are arrested after the final ruling.

Abolishing the bail schedule in San Francisco means that a person’s wealth will no longer dictate whether or not they are detained. Phil Telfeyan added, “After five years of litigation, we are relieved to see San Francisco’s unequal bail system ending. We hope that other cities and states will soon follow.”

Heather Pritchett