Bail reform threatens crime victims

A jail inmate clutches the bars of his cell. (Photo: Frank60, via Shutterstock)

As it is with many issues, there are occasions where we, as Californians, can agree on a goal, but disagree on the method to achieve that goal. Senate Bill 10, a “bail reform” bill by Senator Robert Hertzberg, is one such example. I think we can all agree that we want a justice system that is fair to all parties, regardless of their socio-economic status, but in this bill, victims are a too much of an afterthought.

The stated mission of this bill is to drastically reduce the number of individuals detained during pretrial. SB 10, written by Sen. Hertzberg, threatens the safety of victims by allowing the elimination of the private bail sector. The bail system in the state is no longer the determining factor. Instead, a computer program that makes a risk assessment of each arrested individual replaces the current system.

To date, there have been a few examples of “bail-reformed” systems including Colorado, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington D.

This new system takes away the decision of the judge and replaces it with a risk assessment generated by artificial intelligence on whether to give an individual bail or release them while awaiting trial. Judges take into consideration a multitude of factors before deciding on the amount of bail.

Weakening public safety controls opens the door to the possibility of additional crimes being committed while awaiting adjudication on the original offense. California’s citizens will be put at greater risk if approved.

SB 10 doesn’t allow any justice for the victims of crime and further puts Californians at risk.

To date, there have been a few examples of “bail reformed” systems including Colorado, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington D.C. Each of the state legislatures have tried to reach out to California’s elected officials to warn of catastrophic system failure.

New Jersey Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, a strong bail reform advocate,  states in his letter to the California State Assembly: “The Public Safety needs of the citizens in New Jersey have suffered far greater than could have been imagined…the costs to the state have increased exponentially.”

Washington D.C.’s Police Chief, Cathy Lanier has said publicly that she is frustrated with the new bail system because it continues to allow repeat offenders back into the communities. She called the criminal justice system in D.C. “beyond broken.”

Jefferson County Colorado is another perfect example of a “bail reform” system that didn’t pan out.

Once the system was established, the county did not have any savings and experienced a lack of accountability. The liability was then placed on law enforcement and taxpayers. Jefferson County warned California not to be fooled by empty promises and a utopian-like system.

This type of “bail reform” will only result in a public safety disaster.

SB 10 will put California and its citizens at risk. It undermines the safety of Californians in their own communities.

I know about victimization and what it is to be a crime victim.

I experienced crime first hand numerous times throughout my life, most recently when I was assaulted in my own home in April 2002. My assailant violently attacked me, tried to kill me, and threatened to kill my son. After being drugged, beaten, and suffocated, I was finally able to escape and get help.

This is one of the many reasons that I founded Crime Survivors on behalf of all victims of violent crimes. Our organization is dedicated to helping others with horrific experiences just like the one that altered and changed my life forever.

California is not taking into consideration states that have already had this system and ultimately, it is the victims that suffer.

The sheer cost and liability taxpayers will incur if this system becomes repealed will devastate Californians. The danger posed by criminals released back onto the streets is even more devastating.

The stakes are too high. Support crime survivors by saying No to SB 10.

Ed’s Note: Patricia Wenskunas is the founder and CEO of Crime Survivors. (www. CrimeSurvivors.org)

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