The governor of California, Jerry Brown, approved on Tuesday a reform of the monetary bail system that according to his supporters is the most advanced law in this regard in the country.
The law completely eliminates the system by which the poor, mostly blacks and Latinos, awaited trial in pretrial detention for not being able to afford a few thousand dollars of bail, The California law should be a triumph of civil rights and a watershed in the struggle to reform the penal system of the United States, the country with the largest prison population in the world. However, it has been criticized by the same civil rights organizations that promote this cause.
The system of monetary bonds in the United States has dramatic consequences for the poorest segments of the population. Except in the most serious crimes, when a detainee appears before the judge, he has the right to be released on bail while awaiting trial. This bond is understood as a guarantee that the person will appear at the trial and is returned when it actually occurs.
The generalization of this practice has meant that those who can not afford a typical bond of 5,000 or 10,000 dollars are forced into jail. A trial for a minor offense in California may take 90 days. A trial for a felony, up to a year or more. At that time you can lose your job, or custody of the children if there is no other person. The consequences can be dramatic for the life of a person who has not been convicted but simply can not afford bail. A study by the Prison Policy Initiative indicates that 34% of detainees end up in this situation.
The bond system is directly related to the explosion of numbers in the prison population and the disproportionate bias towards the poor and minorities. The United States is the country with the most people in prison in the world, 2.3 million, of which more than half a million have not been tried and are provisional. In California, the situation became so serious that a judge ordered a reduction in the prison population.
The new law eliminates this system and replaces it with risk assessment criteria that remain in the hands of local authorities People who are at risk of recidivism or low escape will be released with medium risk will depend on these evaluation criteria in cases considered high risk there will be no possibility of conditional release.