Legislators vote to eliminate bail bonds

Elected leaders, law enforcement officials express dismay over new challenges for public safety

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A proposal to eliminate the cash bail-bond system passed through both houses of the California legislature this week and at press time awaited only a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown to take effect next year.

Proponents of Senate Bill 10 said that the current system preys on the poor, since those with limited resources have the most difficulty posting bail.

“I think that’s absurd,” said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood. “If you cannot afford to commit a crime, then don’t commit a crime.

“This measure does not make any logical sense to me. It sends a message that if you don’t have enough, then it’s O.K. to steal. We as a society are now entering an era that no longer holds people accountable for their actions. I think that’s dangerous and frightening.”

“SB10 is bad policy and an overreaction to the issues facing our current bail system,” said State Sen. Jean Fuller, who voted against the bill on Tuesday. “It removes the incentive for the guilty to return to court, and will not provide any additional protections for the wrongly accused.”

Fuller also voted against the bill when it came to the floor last year, and she said the amendments made since then do not offer any improvement.

“I am vehemently opposed to this proposal,” said Assemblyman Vince Fong, who opposed the bill during Monday’s vote in the lower legislature.

He accused Sacramento Democrats of “jamming through the measure,” which is set to be implemented by next October.

“This proposal has not been vetted, was rushed through the legislative process and has deep opposition across the political spectrum. This proposal undermines our justice system and puts our communities and families at greater risk.”

He added that the “real consequences” will be felt all over the state. “This is another example of how Sacramento is making public safety worse with the policies they continue to pass. We are seeing crime rates increasing throughout the state, yet Sacramento is making this problem worse.

“We need to stop these tone-deaf proposals now.”

“I believe that our legislators have lost their focus on protecting victims and victims’ rights — which took forever to put into place. Now it seems that they are being forgotten,” said Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin.

He said that the latest initiative further cripples those in law enforcement and criminal justice in their endeavors to keep the peace. In 2011 legislators implemented AB 109 to eliminate state prisons — shifting those convicts to county facilities and squeezing thousands of lower offenders onto the streets.

Reduced sentencing guidelines and elimination of whole classes of felonies have made it difficult to press charges for many drug, theft and other offenses that historically included jail time.

McLaughlin said that these measures are often “sold” to the public with misleading titles and descriptions. He acknowledged that, with SB 10, judges maintain some discretion for holding violent offenders. “But is this the same list of ‘nonviolent’ misdemeanors that we’ve been scratching our heads and wondering how in the world they qualify as ‘non-violent.’ I just don’t think there has been any justification for taking this step.”

Both Youngblood and McLaughlin said they anticipate Brown’s support for the bill.

“As far as reversing this, I hope every concerned citizen will reach out to their assemblymen, senators and congressmen to see if we can stop this,” said McLaughlin.

“Our state Sheriff’s Association is opposed to this,” said Young-blood. “But I don’t expect the governor to listen to us on this one.”

Story First Published: 2018-08-24