Pretrial Justice Institute Commends California Chief Justice’s Call for Bail Reform

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Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court highlighted the need for reform in her annual State of the Judiciary address this week

Sacramento, CA — During the state of California’s annual State of the Judiciary address on Tuesday, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court called for reform of the bail system and put a spotlight the state’s efforts to develop alternatives to holding people on bail, declaring, “We need more pretrial release programs to balance safety against the need to post bail. We must not penalize the poor for being poor.” In her remarks, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye highlighted the California state court system’s new programs in 12 local courts to place nonviolent people under supervision after arrest, rather than holding them in jail awaiting bail.

Following Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s address, Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, issued the following statement:

“Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye put an important spotlight on the urgent need to reform the bail system during California’s State of the Judiciary address yesterday. There is a growing national movement to improve pretrial justice by replacing money-based bail decisions with risk-based strategies. Our research shows that voters overwhelmingly support these changes, as do a broad spectrum of criminal justice system stakeholders. There are too many people sitting in jail before trial—62% nationally, about 500,000 on any given day—most simply because they cannot afford to post bond. Most of those detained pose a low risk of flight or to public safety. In addition to upending the lives of unconvicted individuals, detention turns low-risk defendants into high-risk defendants, making us all less safe. The commonsense solutions to these problems are at the core of our 3DaysCount campaign to set a new national standard for pretrial practice. It’s exciting that California is exploring alternatives to holding people on bail, including risk-assessment programs, and we look forward to the state’s continued progress.”

Cherise Fanno Burdeen is executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, a national organization working to advance safe, fair, and effective pretrial justice that honors and protects all people. Her analysis has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Marshall Project, Vice, and The Washington Post.

Facts about cash bail and pretrial detention in America:

  • Most people in American jails—more than 6 in 10—have not yet been to trial; the vast majority are there because they can’t afford cash bail.
  • More than 80% of criminal defendants qualify for indigent defense based on poverty Even three days in jail can result in loss of wages, jobs, housing, and family connections, leaving some defendants 40% more likely to commit future crime.
  • Nearly half of high-risk defendants exploit the money bail system and use bail bondsmen to get out.
  • The tools exists to replace the outdated cash bail system with a risk-based system that is safe, fair, and effective, and many jurisdictions have demonstrated it is possible.

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