Bail is a right every citizen has in the United States. It’s something we all take for granted but should fight to protect. In 2018, the California governor, Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 10 – which would have eliminated the cash bail system altogether. However, many civil rights, law enforcement, and bail groups banded together to have the elimination of cash bail put to vote as Proposition 25. As people voted in record numbers during the 2020 Presidential Election in California they also cast their vote for bail. The Proposition to eliminate cash bail was soundly defeated 55% to 44% – affirming that the will of the people is that bail remains.
The Importance of Bail
Our criminal justice system is based on the premise that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Without bail, people could remain in jail for indefinite amounts of time as bureaucrats face backlogs and government programs work to catch up. Being locked up for days, and even weeks after an arrest isn’t Constitutional.
Why Bills Doing Away is a Bad Option
The bail system does have room for improvement, but doing away with it altogether is dangerous. Here are some of the negative outcomes it could have:
- There would be no accountability for defendants to return to court, as no money was used as bail.
- Law enforcement would be burdened with the responsibility of ensuring that defendants appear in court.
- Counties would be burdened with higher costs (the bill for SB10 in California was expected to cost $200 million per year). This cost would ultimately fall to taxpayers.
- Communities and victims would be endangered, as many defendants wouldn’t show up for court, and would remain on the streets.
Many organizations around the country must continue the fight against ineffective, and incomplete reform. Most reform doing away with bail would have the opposite effect on the very people it is trying to protect. The fight continues in states and cities across the country, and agencies like Dee’s Bail Bonds in Richmond Virginia are fighting to rally local support in opposition to reform in their own backyards. We can do the same in our own communities should legislation like this arrive.
We Need to Fight for the Future of Bail In Our Country
With the failure of SB10, the future of bail in California has only been temporarily assured and we’ll need to continue the fight to keep our right to bail, to protect the innocent and our Constitutional rights. Hopefully other states can look to the failure of reform, and the popular will of the people in considering their own criminal justice reforms.