California is slowly coming around to the reality that to prevent jails from become holding places for the poor, better release actions must be enacted. Voters now have the opportunity to weigh in on this age old question: should those who cannot make bail remain incarcerated before trial while more well off defendants go free because of the value of their bank accounts and credit?
The temptation is for the justice system, always underfunded, to use these archaic systems to raise much needed operating expenses instead of basing their decision on the merits of the individual being considered as to whether they are or they are not a flight risk.
On the other hand, courts have the power to hold defendants with or without bail because of what the judge personally believes a defendant might do based upon their experiences and past behaviors. The new law could even allow more incarcerations if the judge doesn't trust the defendant to return to court in good faith.
It's interesting that Heidi L. Strunk, President of the Mental Health America of California is in favor of Proposition 25. The number of incarcerated persons with mental illness is another concern that the proposed law attempts to address.
Thankfully the state is grappling with this matter as a matter of fairness. The implementation of such a law will be greatly scrutinized if voters agree that it is time for a change.
Update on the Outcome of the Eliminate Money Bail Measure
In November, 2020 California voters rejected the change in money bail by a margin of 56% to 44%. Recognizing the need for better bail, voters strongly considered this measure, however the uncertainty of its application was determined to be too risky to implement. The legal profession is looking for improved methods to deal with this problem and for better legislation that can be understood and benefit both the incarcerated and the community at large.