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Bigelow: Bail Reform Efforts Risk ‘Criminals On The Street’

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Sonora, CA — A Mother Lode lawmaker is weighing in on the status of bail reform efforts underway at the State Capitol.

A hot topic that continues to be addressed through proposed legislation, it is highly contested by bail bondsmen concerned about their livelihoods as well as worrisome to those who believe it will remove the incentive for criminals to show up at their court dates.

State Assemblymember Frank Bigelow is calling current efforts a plan of Capitol Democrats to let dangerous criminals out of jail and back on the street. This is following the recent narrow non-passage of AB 42 by a vote of 36-37 after the California Senate approved the similar SB 10 on a bipartisan 25-11 vote.

Addressing The ‘Jail And Bail’ Challenge

Together the two bills comprise the California Money Bail Reform Act, aiming to keep jails from holding people pretrial simply because they cannot afford to cover to post bail or pay a commercial bond company.

The bills sought to revise the pretrial release system by limiting pretrial detention to specified persons, eliminating the use of bail schedules and establishing pretrial services agencies, which would conduct risk assessments on those arrested in order to provide conditions of release recommendations.

“While there is most certainly room for improvement in California’s bail system, we must be thoughtful and thorough while developing a replacement,” Bigelow opines. Due to no current funding allocations for it he notes, “The proposed alternative will be costly and burdensome for local governments to implement, specifically due to the establishment of a pretrial services department.”

A Call For More Stakeholder Input

Understanding public safety concerns and calls for addressing the real injustices to California’s pretrial release system, Bigelow cautions that current efforts jeopardize communities because they do not provide a fully developed replacement policy to set in place.

“It is of great importance to work with all stakeholders on the issue — and law enforcement who are not yet supportive of the measure, are a vital component to ensuring success,” he emphasizes.

Governor Jerry Brown’s administration maintains the modernization of the state’s pretrial system is an urgent need, acknowledging that thousands of individuals held in county jails across the state who have not been convicted of a crime are being detained while awaiting trial simply because they cannot afford to post money bail or pay a commercial bail bond company. According to state data, two-thirds of those in California jails in 2015 were awaiting a trial or sentencing.

Two other states that are enacting bail reform legislation are Illinois and Connecticut, the latter of which managed to pass a compromise package supported by liberals and conservatives.