SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Following a two-year debate, voters will ultimately decide if California’s money bail system should be replaced with an algorithm that determines whether a suspect is put behind bars.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, authored the law, which passed the Legislature in 2018.
“(The bill is meant) to fix a fundamentally broken part of the criminal justice system and create more fairness, more justice and more safety, in short,” Bonta said. “Right now, we have a money bail system that punishes poor people for being poor.”
If passed, Proposition 25 would create a new system that would use a risk assessment algorithm analyzing a suspect based on the seriousness of the crime, flight risk, prior criminal records and likelihood to show up for court.
Opponents of the measure say this would take away a person’s right to post bail using an automated system to decide whether a suspect goes to jail.
“When you go to a computer algorithm, you’re going to take humans out of the equation. You’re going to have a system where a computer could be letting people out of jail who shouldn’t get out and could be holding people in who shouldn’t be held in,” said former Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who opposes the proposition. “I think it will be very hard to draft an algorithm that isn’t racially biased or biased against the poor.”
State fiscal analysts say increased state and local pre-trial costs could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually, depending on how local courts use the system.
If passed, California would be the first state to replace cash bail with an algorithm.