In most states, judges can set a sum of money that defendants must put up in exchange for their release from jail before trial. Poor people remain in jail for weeks or months before any determination of guilt. The California Money Bail Reform Act will upend this system by prohibiting judges from setting monetary payments. However there is the fear the law will give judges too much discretion to simply refuse to release defendants, including those who might not constitute a flight risk or a danger to public safety.
Critics worry that too many medium-risk defendants will be left behind bars and that those who remain in jail will disproportionately end up being people of color. 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 protecting public safety,” said state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D), the bill’s sponsor, in a statement. Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed the new law. The change will take effect in October 2019. “Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Brown said in a statement.