San Francisco District Attorney Ends Use Of Money Bail

Fulfilling a campaign pledge to base pretrial detention on “risk” rather than “wealth and poverty”

Prosecutors in San Francisco will no longer seek money bail for criminal defendants who are deemed to pose little risk to public safety under a new policy instituted by the city.

What We Know:

  • Newly elected San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced the implementation of the policy Wednesday, fulfilling a campaign pledge to base pretrial detention on “risk” rather than “wealth and poverty.”
  • The cash bail system in the U.S. has been criticized as benefiting defendants of higher incomes. Defendants without enough money to post bail spend the time between their arrest and the end of their trial behind bars.
  • In a statement, Boudin said taxpayers spent $38 million per day jailing people who have not been convicted of any crimes. Boudin said the practice disproportionately affects communities of color and lower income individuals.
  • Under the new policy, prosecutors can seek to hold defendants without bail in serious felony cases such as those involving acts of violence or sexual assaults, but they have been instructed to no longer seek money bail for suspects assessed by an algorithm based system to pose little or no risk to public safety or for flight.
  • Senior Researcher at Human Rights John Raphling said in a statement: “District Attorney Boudin’s policy is a great step towards a more just system, for too long, prosecutors have used money bail and pretrial incarceration as leverage to pressure people to plead guilty regardless of actual guilt. Boudin’s policy favoring pretrial release is a welcome change and will help build the credibility of our courts.”

Although former Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 10 into law back in 2018, eliminating cash bail statewide, a referendum for the November 2020 ballot to overturn the law has suspended it.

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Dominique Browder is a Digital Intern at UnmutedCo.

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