JusticeLA Issues Letter to L.A. County Board of Supervisors As Future of Bail Reform Hangs in the Balance with SB 10

June 6, 2018

Today, JusticeLA issued the following letter to members of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors calling on them to oppose the use of algorithm-based risk-assessment tools under the guise of bail reform that will shift bail amounts based strictly on accusations, to a system that uses factors such as poverty and other indicia that will disfavor mainly people of color:

Honorable Members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors:

JusticeLA enthusiastically supports ending money bail in California as a step towards ending the pretrial detention system that continues to undermine a meaningful particle of justice and public safety in Los Angeles County. Towards that end, we unequivocally oppose the use of pretrial risk assessment tools. The current money bail system wastes millions of County dollars, extracts additional millions from our most vulnerable communities, and thwarts the rights to the assumption of innocence and freedom. While we support the effort of SB 10 to significantly reduce the use of money bail, its risk-assessment component euphemizes our current bail schedules by shifting bail amounts based strictly on accusations into amounts based on factors such as poverty and other indicia that will disfavor our local communities.

Neither wealth nor profiling should determine a person’s freedom.

Algorithm-based risk-assessment tools give the illusion of neutrality, normalizing bias while reinforcing long-standing systems of racial inequality. The notion that any risk assessment instrument can account for bias ignores the racial disparities in current and past policing practices. Because risk-assessment tools primarily rely on criminal history information, they will only exacerbate racial disparities. Ultimately, risk-assessment tools create a feedback-loop of racial profiling, pre-trial detention and conviction. A person’s freedom should not be reduced to an algorithm. It is dehumanizing and ignores the context that can only be achieved through a proper hearing with evidence examined and defense counsel present.

Therefore, we strongly urge you to request the following amendments to SB 10:

Remove the mandate for risk assessment tools in order to give Los Angeles County the autonomy to form its own pre-trial system.

All misdemeanor and non-serious/non-violent felonies get released without a risk-assessment determining conditions.

Anyone who qualifies for appointed counsel would be deemed unable to pay for conditions (electronic monitoring, costs of pretrial services, drug testing, etc.).

Where pre-trial detention is being considered, courts should implement individualized hearings to determine the necessity of pre-trial detention. A needs-based assessment should be administered to determine the least restrictive conditions for release while providing relevant resources and services; including mental health treatment, housing, substance abuse treatment, as well as wrap-around services. Services should be rendered and provided without expanding conditions

JusticeLA insists that the following steps be put into place alongside bail reform:

Pretrial services should be housed within the Department of Public Health.

County funding should be allocated for pilot programs in each district that support community-based pretrial services.

Any savings from reducing pretrial incarceration should be allocated to implement pre-arrest, community-based diversion programs with restricted police authority to require people to enter these programs.

Pretrial release should not be reliant on punitive or controlling measures such as Electronic Monitoring but rather should be based on meeting individual needs.

Finally, bail reform presents Los Angeles County with the opportunity to drastically reduce its jail population. By the L.A. County Sheriff’s’ own estimates, nearly half of the jail population is awaiting trial. In light of the Humphrey legal decision and the likely passage of statewide bail reform, Los Angeles County must develop an immediate and long-term decarceration plan that would provide benchmarks for the reduction of the overall LA County jail population as well as per day jail bed occupancy. Given that 50% of LA County’s jail population is being held pretrial, bail reform would drastically reduce this percentage. This will result in opportunities for investing in community-based alternatives to imprisonment, other decarceration and decriminalization efforts, and life-sustaining services such as community-based mental health care. LA County should immediately halt all plans and efforts for jail construction until bail reform is fully implemented and there is a thorough assessment of financial, community, and jail impacts.

We welcome the opportunity to expand on our recommendations and continue discussions on bail reform implementation with your offices.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

JusticeLA Executive Committee

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