You get arrested for a crime and if you can pay a certain amount of money they will let you go free until your trial. That money is known as “bail”. Obviously, if you don’t have the money you stay in jail until your trial. This means that you can’t work during that time, will likely be fired for not showing up, and therefore have no way of ever getting that money. In California they see this as an unfair advantage of the rich. It is an advantage. I’m not sure it it’s not fair or not. If you show up for trial you get the money back, if you don’t then the state keeps it. There are companies that lend the money to poor people so they can get out. If the person skips out on trial the bail company sends out a bounty hunter to capture you and bring you in so they aren’t out the money they lend you.
In the state of California they have done away with cash bail. If you are not a flight risk they let you out, not money, if you are they keep you in and no amount of money can buy your way out. That sounds pretty good actually. The only problem I see is in how they determine who is a risk and who isn’t. But, they seem to have worked that out okay too. It’s largely based on the type of crime. If you are a rapist, you stay. If you shoplifted, you go out. Unless, that is, you are a serial shoplifter in which case you stay.
One way in which I kind of get the hint that this is a good thing is in a statement made by the California Bail Agents Association. They say they are going to use every thing they can to stop the law because, “You don’t eliminate an industry and expect those people to go down quietly. Every single weapon in our arsenal will be fired.” You see, I have a problem where justice and business get intermingled. It is similar to private prisons. They have a vested interest in people going to jail and so will support laws that put people there. Though the bail system isn’t so insidious as that it still makes me uneasy. Of course the counter argument can be made that people are being helped by that industry who just make a little interest off their legitimate loans.
It probably seems odd to most people that I want our criminal justice system to err on the side of keeping people out of jail. I feel that if a criminal goes free or runs away it is actually worth the risk of it to keep innocent people out of jail until their trial. I do understand why we don’t. If someone really is a horrible criminal they might try to kill witnesses or do other crimes while out. If we have a pretty good idea they are thugs then why risk it? Though I don’t really care much about California’s rich vs poor reasoning for this law I have to admit that on the face of it this is a good idea.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Aug. 28, 2018, signed Senate Bill 10, which eliminates cash bail in California starting in 2020 and replaces it with a system of risk assessment and nonmonetary conditions of release.