Opinion: California high court’s historic bail ruling just a first step

May 3, 2021

California’s highest court recently delivered a major victory for the cause of justice when it ruled that “the common practice of conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional.” Under the state Supreme Court’s ruling, judges must now consider a person’s ability to pay when setting bail and can only hold someone in jail before trial in limited circumstances.

Fundamentally, the court echoed what criminal justice reformers — including us — have been saying for years: The right to be out of custody while awaiting trial in California should never be measured by the size of one’s pocketbook.

The court’s core argument was simple: California’s money bail system is not just illegal and unfair, it is harmful. “The disadvantages to remaining incarcerated pending resolution of criminal charges are immense and profound,” the court wrote, citing studies finding that “pretrial detention heightens the risk of losing a job, a home, and custody of a child.”

 

For the full op-ed, click here.