The Orange County Young Democrats (OCYD) endorse the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017, which seeks to reform or replace the existing money bail systems, and commend Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) for introducing and championing this bipartisan effort, co-sponsored by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
Today, money bail systems across the nation require defendants to pay arbitrary bail amounts that do not account for the individual’s risk to public safety, flight risk, or ability to pay. As a result, an individual’s personal wealth is often the determining factor regarding whether or not the individual stays in jail. Additionally, under current money bail systems, nearly 50 percent of defendants who were determined to be high risk were allowed to return to the community, while studies have also shown that pretrial detention for even short periods makes it more likely the individuals will commit new crimes following release. Money bail systems have also been shown to disproportionately affect communities of color: African American men pay 35 percent higher money bail amounts than white men, and Hispanic men pay 19 percent higher money bail amounts than white men.
The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act authorizes a $10 million grant over a three-year period to encourage states to reform or eliminate money bail and consider other factors when determining whether or not a defendant should be kept in jail while awaiting trial. In so doing, it sets forth basic principles that any entity receiving funding must abide, including replacing money bail systems with individualized, pretrial assessments with risk-based decision-making and providing for a presumption of release unless the judicial officer determines the defendant is a flight risk or poses a risk to public safety.
OCYD also notes the California State Assembly is considering a state bail reform bill that the State Senate has already passed. The bill, SB 10, would require counties to develop their own risk assessment to evaluate defendants and requires courts to hold a pretrial detention hearing within 48 hours of an arrest.
The Orange County Young Democrats urge the United States Senate to consider and pass the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act and call on California’s State Assembly to pass SB 10 in order to work towards bail systems that are fair, do not favor the wealthy over the poor, and accurately assess the defendant’s risk to public safety.