California voters on Tuesday voted to reject Proposition 25, which would have ended cash bail in the state and replaced it with a risk assessment model for pretrial detention. The measure was defeated by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
The proposed risk assessment system would have designated suspects as high-, medium- or low-risk. Those with a low risk of failing to appear in court and a low risk to public safety would be released, while those in the high-risk category would be kept in jail. Local court rules would dictate the process for medium-risk individuals. If enacted, this system would have exempted suspects of misdemeanors from needing a risk assessment in order to be released.
Prop. 25 would have upheld Senate Bill 10 (SB10), which had split support among liberals. The ACLU of Southern California stated, “SB 10 is not the model for pretrial justice and racial equity that California should strive for … [SB10 does not] sufficiently address racial bias in pretrial decision making. Indeed, key provisions of the new law create significant new risks and problems.”
KNOCK.LA argued that Prop. 25 would allow judges to arbitrarily decide who to detain, expand the already-bloated state probation department, and use “an ethically dubious risk assessment algorithm” with racist potential. The risk assessment uses historical data of people in similar situations, injecting past biases directly into the process.
The Advancement Project supported Prop. 25 because it would release half of the incarcerated population who are pre-trial detainees; these people are only in jail because they cannot afford bail. Also, Black people, who are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system, could better avoid the cash bail system.
SB10 was approved by the California Legislature in 2018 but the bail industry qualified a referendum to put the law on hold until voters could decide to approve it. The bail industry spent $10 million to defeat Prop. 25 while Prop. 25 supporters raised $13.6 million.