Most people do not understand how the criminal justice system operates until they are on the other side of the law. They do not fully understand the consequences of breaking the law or realize how unfair they can be for the indigent citizens of the black and other minority communities who may not be able to afford bail. Equal Justice Now, a nonprofit organization, is committed to educating the public on the importance of maintaining the rights of all citizens to bail and the issues related to the current bail bond laws.
According to their website, California’s lawmakers made last minute changes behind closed doors to SB 10 (a proposed bail reform bill) and granted judges and other employees of the courts enhanced power to authorize the continuing detention of civilians by denying them their right to a meaningful pre-trial hearing. Even though most groups who initially supported the bill withdrew their support after the changes were made public, the bill passed and is scheduled to become law!
In response to the passage of the bill, a newly organized group supporting citizens’ rights to bail, The Californians Against the Reckless Bail Scheme Coalition, collected more than 575,000 signatures from registered California voters in 70 days leading to a binding referendum against the bail reform bill that will be voted on in the November 2020 elections. Until then, the controversial bail reform bill has been put on hold pending the citizens’ vote on the referendum and a group of leaders in the Californian criminal justice system have begun a comprehensive review of the pre-trial detention progress to identify potential improvements that were not even considered when the bill was drafted and passed.
While many citizens and leaders agree that meaningful reforms of the criminal justice system are needed, people on both sides of the bail reform issue have taken a strong stance against SB 10 since it relies primarily on the use of flawed risk assessment tools that will likely make it even more difficult for minority citizens to preserve their rights to equal justice.
“This measure has a lot of repercussions and we should respect the will of the people,” Assemblyman Devon Mathis said. “As of late, it feels like California has forgotten about its duty to its citizens.”
Among the principal concerns of those that oppose the bill is that risk assessment tools do not satisfy the requirements of recent decisions addressing bail reform that were issued by the 5th and 11th Circuit Courts of Appeal. For example, since the California Office of Court Administration is not currently automated and they have no access to criminal history databases, they intend to use an “app” to calculate a risk assessment score for individuals accused of a crime that is based solely upon non-verified information that is not disclosed to the court.
On Thursday, January 16th, 2020 at 7:00 PM, Equal Justice Now will honor Stevie Wonder & Congresswoman Maxine Waters at a Pre-SAG event in Hollywood.
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