Senate Bill 10 is a bill being considered by the California State Senate that would replace the current bail system with a program of “oversight and assistance” to individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trail. Currently, arrested persons post bail to ensure that they appear for court-mandated hearings and procedures. When they can't afford the entire amount of the bail, bail bond agencies are used to post bail on their behalf. Using a bail bond company allows a person to get out of jail for a fraction of the cost of bail, called a bail premium.
In return for this bail premium, the bail bond agency keeps track of their bonded individuals and help law enforcement ensure that those accused of crimes appear for court proceedings and fulfill the obligations of their pretrial release. This is all done at no expense to taxpayers.
SB10 would create a new agency in each county that would assess the risk of pretrial release and offer assistance and oversight to those awaiting trial. This would be done at the expense of the taxpayer, rather than those accused of crimes.
SB 10 is proposed as a means of addressing what the authors see as “minority disparities” within the justice system. The authors of the bill state that pretrial detention and the current bail requirements disproportionally affect people of color and low-income people. However, those opposed to the bill see it as an attempt to put more control into government hands, find the bill to be inherently racist, and object to the cost that would be born by tax payers, rather than criminals.
SB 10 is Inherently Racist
Proponents of SB10 consider the law and law-abiding citizens to be “oppressors,” and that the victims are the law breakers sitting behind bars. The implication is that those who uphold the law are oppressing poor and minority communities with their requirement that laws be followed and consequences met. This attitude is both ridiculously impractical and inherently racist.
An excellent article by the Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson explores the racial overtones of SB10 and the consequences to minority communities. Minority and low-income communities are home to a disproportionate amount of criminal activity. If the accused are allowed to go back to their communities, without the consequences of bail or bond, these same communities will be subject to increased violence and crime.
SB 10 is Expensive For The Taxpayer, Rather Than Criminals
Senate Bill 10 would require that each county creates an additional agency, called a “Pre-Trial Agency.” This agency's purpose would be to “gather information” about every newly arrested person, conduct a pretrial risk assessment, and prepare individually tailored recommendations to the court about each person's release options and conditions, as well as to provide pretrial services and supervision to these individuals on pretrial release.
These new agencies would have to be enormous, to provide the kind of background information, oversight, and assistance that would be required to make certain that people who have been arrested adhere to the conditions of their pretrial release and show up for their court hearings and proceedings.
Currently, this oversight is being provided through the bail system. Those accused of crimes are permitted to post bail with the judicial system to ensure their compliance with court proceedings. Upon the completion of their court case, this money is refunded to the individual who paid it. For those who cannot afford the entire amount of bail, Bail Bond Agencies post bail in return for a fee called a bail premium. This premium reimburses the bail bond agency for their part in keeping track of the accused and ensuring that he or she complies with the conditions of their bail.
Bail bond agents are well trained and are currently providing an invaluable service to the State of California by helping to ensure that those accused of crimes comply with the conditions of their pretrial release. They provide this service at no cost to the tax payers, as those accused of crimes are, appropriately, footing the bill for their own oversight.
SB 10 would shift the burden of cost from those accused of crimes to the taxpayer by placing the responsibility for oversight and compliance in the hands of these new agencies that would have to be created in each county. This is an expensive and unnecessary move.
SB 10 is Impractical
SB 10 would require that a “pretrial risk assessment” be completed on every person who is arrested for a crime. This risk assessment would include “detailed, and individually tailored” recommendations for pretrial release and the services and oversight that would be required by each person who has been arrested.
At first glance, SB 10 lays these proposed risk assessments out in a way that appeals to many people's sense of justice and individual rights. The bill places a burden on the government agency to decide individual flight and continued criminal risk, rather than standard requirements currently posed by the bail system. There are elements of the bill and the way it discusses pretrial risk assessment that might make people feel better about the justice system and individual rights.
However, any sane person would expect that a truly detailed risk assessment and an individually tailored plan would take days, or even weeks, to prepare. A true risk assessment would require background information and research into friendships and associations with known criminal entities, as well as many other details of a person's life. Some people would object to these kinds of in depth “risk assessments” on the grounds of privacy violations. However, even if you supported the idea, one would not expect that these “detailed risk assessments” would happen quickly. The burden of preparing a risk assessment for each person who comes through the law enforcement booking procedure would be overwhelming, if done properly, and would result in people being behind bars for a long period of time before they could even be considered for pretrial release.
However, the authors of SB10 know that a truly detailed report on each individual would have the effect of clogging up the court system and county jails, even more than they already are. Therefore, while they ask for these detailed risk assessments and individually tailored plans, they require that they are provided to the judge or magistrate within six hours of arrest, so that the arrested person can appear for a pretrial release hearing within that time frame. How detailed and in depth can these risk assessments possibly be? How can individualized can their recommendations be, if they must be completed within six hours of arrest?
The answer is, they can't be individualized at all. People will be reduced to bullet points and box checking. The agents in charge of conducting risk assessments will have no time to do any real research and will have to rely on certain types of profiling, in order to assign risk likelihood based on generalizations. Anything else would risk not meeting the six hour time requirement.
Individualized risk assessment is simply an impractical idea, no matter how ideal it might seem to have each person's situation addressed before a pretrial release hearing. The implementation of SB 10 would be enormously cumbersome and ultimately impractical.
SB 10 is Unsafe
True individual risk assessment is impractical and simply won't happen in a real-world application. The result will be thousands of criminals being cited and then released, with no accountability to the court system and no oversight by financially invested bail bond agents. These criminals will have no incentive to appear for legal proceedings and no bail bond agents keeping track of their whereabouts to ensure that they appear. Law-abiding citizens of the State of California, and particularly members of low income and minority communities, will be at greater risk because of the unsupervised release of criminals who have yet to appear for trial.
No on Senate Bill 10 is The Only Real Option
The sheer impracticality and taxpayer expense of SB10 should make voting “NO” an easy choice. The overriding danger to the law-abiding citizens of our state, especially those in low-income and minority communities, make it the only reasonable choice. Contact your State Representative today, and tell him or her that you'd like them to vote “NO” on Senate Bill 10!
Find your state representative's contact information HERE.