California Forum

California bail reform bill may be trendy, but it would hurt victims’ rights

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, is co-sponsoring legislation to reform California’s money bail system. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, is co-sponsoring legislation to reform California’s money bail system. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) AP

Erwin Chemerinsky’s article, in support of Senate Bill 10 (“Bail reform is overdue in California,” Forum, March 25) throws shade at crime victims by ignoring Marsy’s Law and California’s Victim Bill of Rights. SB 10 is a get out of jail free card that ignores constitutional protections guaranteeing crime victims the right to be notified, to be informed, and an opportunity to testify, before an accused defendant can be released from jail.

California’s bail system needs thoughtful, structural reform, not an out of control chainsaw approach that disregards public safety. As currently written, SB 10 only provides consideration of information about the current offense, not a defendant’s criminal history. With exceptions, it will allow “recommendations on conditions of release for the person immediately upon booking.” In other words, SB 10 will create a catch and release system that allows dangerous criminals back onto the street too quickly, making it impossible to facilitate victim guaranteed rights and protections, as it endangers innocent citizens.

Chemerinsky’s article does not acknowledge that SB 10 is based upon the pretrial risk-based assessment programs adopted by New Mexico and New Jersey. In New Mexico violent and property crimes are on the rise, and in New Jersey, bail reform is financially unsustainable and administratively challenging. Things are so bad that bipartisan efforts in both states are now trying to repeal the damage their poor choices have caused.

In both states, a suspect’s risk of re-offending, and of returning to court, are largely decided by computer generated algorithms. As advanced and impressive as artificial intelligence has become, it lacks the human touch. Informed judicial decisions require human knowledge and experience, including empathy for crime victims.

Don’t be fooled. SB 10, sponsored by Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), is an ill-conceived bill that follows the current trend in criminal justice legislation that puts more value on the rights of accused criminals than it does on the health, safety and welfare of crime victims or the greater public at large. They want you to believe that dangerous felons and criminals are the real victims, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Marc Klaas is president of the KlaasKids Foundation, established in 1994 after the kidnap and murder of Polly Hannah Klaas, his daughter. Reach him at mklaas@klaaskids.org.

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