California To Become First State To End Bail On Still Murky Risk-Assessment System

California will become the first state to eliminate bail for suspects awaiting trial under a bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown, but it’s still unclear how the risk-assessment system replacing it will work. 

“Our path to a more just criminal justice system is not complete, but today it made a transformational shift away from valuing private wealth and toward protectingpublic safety,” the law’s author, state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat from Van Nuys, said in a statement.

The new law lets counties set up their own pretrial assessment agencies or run their risk assessment programs through existing probation departments.

Brown’s signature gives the state’s judicial council broad authority to reshape pretrial detention policies ahead of the new law’s October 2019 start date.

L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell hasn’t seen the final language of the bill however said a risk assessment tool looks at characteristics of an individual and if they are likely to reoffend.

“To try to balance what we know about the individual and to determine as best we can, with the information we have, what is the threat for the community by releasing this person rather than holding them in custody pending their trial.”

According to the bill, most suspects accused of nonviolent felonies will be released within 12 hours of booking, while those charged with serious, violent felonies will stay in jail before trial.

The new law gives judges wide latitude to decide what to do with other suspects based on their likelihood of returning to court and the danger they pose to the public.

It’s still unclear which suspects would fall into each category or how long they might spend in jail.

“Trying to ensure that we get the best risk assessment tool that we can, I think, is a critical point to the success to this whole initiative,” said McDonnell.

 

 

The Associated Press, James Rojas

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