This November, California voters will be voting on Proposition 25, which, if passed, would replace cash bail with risk assessments.
Prop. 25 is a referendum on whether to uphold or repeal Senate Bill 10, which was introduced in 2018 and aims to end the current cash bail system used to detain defendants before trial. Instead, pretrial detention and its conditions would be determined by risk assessment.
Under this new system, defendants would be categorized as low, medium or high risk based on their risk to public safety and of fleeing the jurisdiction before trial.
Defendants categorized as low risk would be granted pretrial release, while those categorized as high risk would remain in jail until their trial. Medium-risk defendants could be released or detained depending on the discretion of local courts. Under SB 10, defendants who committed a misdemeanor would be exempted from needing a risk assessment to be released.
Though the bill was signed by former CA governor Jerry Brown on Aug. 28, 2018, a veto referendum to overturn the bill was filed the next day.
Supporters of Prop. 25 argue that the current cash bail system is unequal, alleging that nonviolent offenders who cannot afford bail are required to sit in jail for weeks or months awaiting their court day, whereas violent wealthy offenders can walk free.
“Money bail industry has only ever served to deepen racial injustice in the criminal justice system,” said Yes on 25 campaign spokesperson Jonathan Underland. “The only way we’re going to get a system of equal justice under the law is by getting the money bail industry out of the room.”
According to Yes on 25, the average California bail costs $50,000, causing many defendants to contract with bail bond companies that cover bail for their clients. These companies, however, often require the customer to pay a nonrefundable fee of 10% of their bail, meaning defendants are still required to pay an average of $5,000 upfront for bail.
Additionally, supporters argue California taxpayers spend $5 million a day to detain people who cannot afford bail.
Opponents of Prop. 25 argue that risk assessment tools create more biased outcomes against people of color and low-income communities. Opponents also argue that Prop. 25 puts public safety at risk and places additional burdens on police departments to ensure defendants show up for court dates.
According to No on Prop. 25, the proposition will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to implement, and the costs of building and administering the policy would make the state’s current budget crisis worse.
California residents will vote on the proposition Nov. 3.