Gina Clayton-Johnson and Raj Jayadev | San Jose Mercury News| Link to Article
Women and families need real justice, not more loved ones behind bars
This week, the California State Assembly is likely to vote on Senate Bill 10, a bill that we had hoped would bring an end to the unjust money bail system and significantly reduce the number of people incarcerated in California’s jails.
But the final version of SB 10 trades in the exploitative money bail system for a new pretrial regime — one that will lead to more incarceration and entrench racial, gender, and socioeconomic bias in our system. That is why, today, we are calling on legislators to stop SB 10.
As original cosponsors of SB 10, we have been at the table fighting for good bail reform for the last two years in Sacramento. In the wake of the tragic deaths of Kalief Browder, Venida Browder, and Sandra Bland, we — directly impacted people, women with incarcerated loved ones, their families, and grassroots organizations — have rallied for an end to this predatory industry and system. We saw SB 10 as an opportunity for California to become a leader among states and federally on bail reform.
But the current version of SB10 is a legislative bait and switch, giving California the promise of removing money bail, but replacing it with a deeply flawed and unchecked preventative detention system.
If passed, SB 10 will make our criminal justice system worse for several reasons. First, the new system is based upon bias-prone risk assessment instruments controlled by law enforcement. If SB10 passes, the disproportionate impact on low-income people and communities of color will exacerbated, leading to the continued and unequal jailing of Black and Brown people.
Second, SB 10 places the responsibility of pretrial services in the hands of California probation departments. Probation departments exist to monitor and surveil people who have been convicted. This bill expands the sphere of control of probation departments to people who are legally innocent. This net widening of the criminal justice system is an encroachment on what should naturally fall within the ambit of community health service providers. It should raise a major flag for those concerned with the mass criminalization of Black, Brown, and low-income communities.
Finally, it is ironic that a bill designed to address the fact that 50,000 people sit inside jails for no other reason than that they cannot afford to pay their high money bail, SB 10’s provisions make it more difficult for people to get out rather than less.
Any attempt to reform that would lead to an increase in people behind bars is the wrong way forward. In Maryland, public defenders and community-based organizations found that a July 2017 ruling by the state’s Court of Appeals intended to put an end to money bail has instead contributed to an increase in the number of people being held without bail even as cash bails have decreased. We must avoid these pitfalls and do this right for our communities by rejecting any flawed approach to bail reform that will result in keeping more of our loved ones behind bars.
In a short time California could usher in this new and reckless pretrial system that will impact thousands. Legislators who purport to care about bail reform must see through this thinly veiled bill that brings more incarceration, more disparity, and an enlarged system of punishment and control into our communities. Now is the time for courageous action in response to the ground up call for true bail reform. Legislators must vote no on SB 10.