SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – California’s top judge wants to do away with the state’s cash bail system, which critics say keeps poor people behind bars while wealthier suspects can pay for their freedom.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said Tuesday that the state should instead rely on risk assessments to determine whether defendants should be released. Cantil-Sakauye endorsed a report by the judiciary that called for an end to cash bail and said it should serve as a framework for discussions with Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature.
“I support the conclusion that California’s current pretrial system unnecessarily compromises victim and public safety,” she said.
The bold proposal is likely to face fierce opposition from the bail industry.
Critics say the current system disproportionately keeps poor defendants who cannot afford bail locked up. Wealthy defendants, meanwhile, can go free, they say.
Opponents of scrapping cash bail say the prospect of forfeiting the money ensures people show up for court.
A bail reform bill was approved by the state Senate in the most recent legislative session, but its author, Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys, said he would have had to make additional compromises to get it through the Assembly before the Legislature adjourned in mid-September.
Top state officials promised to study the issue and try again next year. Brown, a Democrat, has said inequities exist in California’s bail system and pledged reform.
Cantil-Sakauye’s endorsement of an end to cash bail will likely increase pressure on the Legislature and governor to change the law.
The chief justice earlier this year clashed with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly over immigration arrests at courthouses, saying the practice would affect the public’s confidence in the court system.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.