The bail reform movement faces a crucial test in California

California may replace cash bail with algorithms — but some worry that will be less fair.

10/17/2020 8:53:00 PM

California may replace cash bail with algorithms — but some worry that will be less fair.

A fight over replacing bail with 'risk assessment tools' has split reform advocates. Some fear the change will worsen anti-Black discrimination.

They lobbied fora law that went into effect this year in New York, which eliminates pretrial detention and cash bail in most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony cases without using a risk assessment tool.“New York is a model for how you take money bail mostly out of the equation,” Insha Rahman, vice president of advocacy and partnerships at the Vera Institute of Justice, said.

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A split over algorithmsThe shift in thinking about risk assessment tools has had a dramatic effect in California.The tools were rising in popularity in December 2016, when Democratic state lawmakers introduced a bill that would end cash bail.Civil rights advocates

saw the announcement as a major turning point in their drive to make the justice system fairer for poor people.“It was really exciting,” Raj Jayadev, the head of a San Jose community organizing group called Silicon Valley De-Bug, recalled. “We were full of hope and ready to get to work.”

The original version of the bill did not mention risk assessment tools, but amendments gradually gave more power to the technology, as well as to judges, who could order someone held indefinitely before trial. That led many supporters, including Silicon Valley De-Bug, to withdraw their endorsements. But the bill, known as SB10, passed, and then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law in August 2018.

Raj Jayadev, director of Silicon Valley De-Bug, speaks during a bail reform rally in front of the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice in February 2018 in San Jose, Calif.Karl Mondon / MediaNews Group via Getty Images file“SB10 put people between a rock and a hard place,” said Lex Steppling, director of campaigns and policy at Dignity and Power Now, a Los Angeles nonprofit that urged Brown to veto the bill.

Steppling called risk assessment tools “a post-modern version” of redlining, the discriminatory policies used by financial companies to designate Black neighborhoods as unworthy of investment.The bail industry, facing extinction in California, launched a campaign to shut the new law down. It collected enough signatures to put it before voters, who will decide Nov. 3 whether it ever goes into effect.

The campaign against the measure, largely bankrolled by the bail industry, the insurance companies that finance it and the state Republican Party, has raised more than $8 million. Proponents have raised more than $6 million, mostly from billionaire John Arnold, whose Arnold Ventures developed a risk assessment tool used in New Jersey and dozens of jurisdictions across the United States, Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, the state Democratic Party, and state labor unions.

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Arnold Ventures said in a statement that risk assessment tools"have been an important part of reforms that shrink jail populations without exacerbating bias.” Read more: NBC News »

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No bail is' stupidity' the revolving door! There is really nothing fair about extorting someone's family for money. Criminal or not. I don’t agree with bail but I’m not sure how I feel about this. There is a lot of room for bias. Where is the fairness to the victim of criminals ... Why are some politicians looking to make life easier for felons. Is life easier for rape victims , families of murder victims or home invasion victims . Crimes are on the rise in america because criminals get off easy.

California has there head in the .... The basic idea is to take the crime, any criminal history, flight risk issues, victim safety issue, and use an objective tool as to risk to public. vs old fashioned bail schedule. rolandsmartin So, not individual caseworkers ... ? The ballot did not disclose this

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