California Lawmakers Want to Reform a Bail System They Say ‘Punishes the Poor for Being Poor’

California lawmakers next year will make it a top priority to reform the system through which judges award criminal offenders bail, saying courts across the state are punishing “the poor for being poor.”

A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy prepares to unlock a security door to a cell block at L.A. County Men's Central Jail in 2011. (Credit: Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy prepares to unlock a security door to a cell block at L.A. County Men’s Central Jail in 2011. (Credit: Los Angeles Times)

Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Sen. Bob Hertzberg said they plan to fire the first salvo Monday, when lawmakers descend upon the Capitol for the start of the 2017 legislative session. They will introduce bills stating the Legislature intends to enact laws that will reduce the number of people detained before trial and address the racial and economic disparities in the bail process.

The details of upcoming legislation are still under deliberation, but Bonta and Hertzberg said they have assembled a broad coalition of organizations and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to tackle what they consider to be one of the most significant pushes — and likely one of the hardest battles — of the year.

Bonta, an Oakland Democrat, said he sees “unprecedented” energy and momentum on the issue, but predicted “a heavy, strong resistance from the bail industry and insurance companies.”

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