Capitol Alert

No California bail reform this year, governor announces

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that a California Senate bill to overhaul the bail system will be held this year as negotiations continue with lawmakers and court officials.

Brown, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, intend to continue to work on Senate Bill 10 through the fall and revisit it early next year, the Governor’s Office said in a statement.

“I believe that inequities exist in California’s bail system and I look forward to working this fall on ways to reform the system in a cost-effective and fair manner, considering public safety as well as the rights of the accused,” Brown said.

SB 10 would have largely eliminated the use of money bail by having courts rely instead on assessments of an offender’s flight risk and danger to public safety. If deemed necessary, bail would be set based on their ability to pay.

Proponents argued that only releasing defendants who can post the allotted bail discriminates against the poor.

“The truth is today, under the cash bail system, if you can write a check, public safety doesn’t matter,” Hertzberg said. He added that Friday’s announcement gives him more time to investigate the failures of the bail market in California.

Bail agents, law enforcement and others contend that posting bail is imperative to ensuring that defendants show up in court.

The Judicial Council, chaired by Cantil-Sakauye, sent a letter in June agreeing with the goals of the bill, yet said the measure did not strike a reasonable balance over concern for public safety and the administration of justice.

“During my state of the judiciary address last year, I suggested that the current bail system may not effectively serve its intended purpose of protecting public safety and ensuring court appearance without disproportionately impacting low-income Californians,” Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement Friday.

She had appointed a work group to study current pretrial detention practices and provide recommendations for potential improvements, she said.

“I look forward to sharing these recommendations with the governor and Legislature as we work together to improve our bail system,” she said.

The Senate passed the bill in May, but a twin version of the measure introduced by Bonta died in the Assembly the next day.

Bail reform drew an unusual mix of celebrity advocacy this year.

Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman, the star of reality shows about apprehending people who post bail and take off, testified against the Assembly bill in a committee hearing in April. The governor’s announcement came one week after the actor, rapper and activist Common performed a free concert on Capitol Mall to urge passage of SB 10 and a pair of juvenile justice measures.

The day before the concert, Dog’s co-star and wife, Beth Chapman, argued against SB 10 in an open letter to Common.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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