County supervisors approve bail system reforms | News | Palo Alto Online |


County supervisors approve bail system reforms

Work group's recommendations include creating a community-based bail fund

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed six recommendations from a final Bail and Release Work Group consensus report that will eventually offer low-income, low-risk and non-violent offenders in Santa Clara County an opportunity to leave jail while waiting for trial.

Santa Clara County Board Supervisor Cindy Chavez said the goal of the recommendations is to make sure people who commit low-level crimes and can't afford bail have a chance to leave jail while awaiting trial with the goal of ensuring public safety at the same time.

All of the final judgments for release will still be left up to a judge.

The work group has been discussing the six recommendations for two years, Chavez said.

Among the more noteworthy recommendations passed is a recommendation to fund bail for low-income inmates from a community-based fund. Chavez said she considers it to be one of the most groundbreaking of the recommendations.

"It's passed and it's pretty phenomenal. It's a very different approach. We'll be the first in the state to do this," she said.

"What this is offering is a community-based bail fund which would start with part of the money coming from the county with a matching amount coming from a private entity," Chavez said. "Now, this (matching contribution amount) can be from a foundation, this can be a donation, it can be any amount of things."

The next step for the community bail recommendation is for a request for proposals from nonprofit groups in the county to operate the community-based fund. The county expects, if all things go according to plan, to have this program running by October 2018.

According to Chavez, the work group's focus in crafting the recommendations was to maintain public safety while keeping violent offenders in jail and keeping those who aren't considered violent out.

Another recommendation that was approved is to have low-risk inmates who can't afford bail be released on electronic surveillance.

The program will be monitored by the department of corrections, which will work with the county administration, county counsel and the district attorney's office to develop rules and regulations for the program by December. A pilot program for misdemeanor cases will then start in January 2018 and reports tracking the program's performance will be expected every December.

"The reason this was significant today is what we've essentially done is implemented it, now we have to study it," Chavez said Tuesday. "We have to make sure it works."

The recommendation's projected fiscal impact claims that savings from reduced jail time should outweigh the cost of extra ankle bracelets.

Another community-based recommendation suggested is to start a community release project where community-based organizations will monitor defendants released before trial. The groups would ensure those defendants make court appearances and avoid new offenses. A request for proposals from groups interested in managing the program is estimated to be complete by April 2018 with the program starting in October of that year.

The group also suggested that a domestic violence-specific risk assessment tool be deployed during the pre-trial phase of a domestic violence suspect being processed into the jail to determine their likelihood of assaulting a victim again.

The tool, known as the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment tool, will be evaluated by a third-party over the next few years to ensure there is no racial bias in the system delivering its results. Although results are expected to come in as early as October or November 2018, full results to see whether the system is being racially biased against suspects may not be known for years, county officials said.

Also among other recommendations approved is one to collect and share data on the performance of suspects released on bail bonds without pretrial supervision, information the county said is currently not available.

The data will be collected and reported to the Public Safety and Justice Committee on a bi-annual basis starting in February 2018, the county said.

According to Chavez, an estimated 55,000 people are processed into the county jail each year, which houses an average of 4,000 inmates in one night, she said. Chavez estimated that the cost for an inmate to spend the night at the jail is somewhere between $120 and $190.

In addition, Chavez claimed that roughly 90 percent of the people who enter the jail eventually get out anyways.

"We want them to get out with a job, with connections to their family and with connections to the community because our ultimate goal is to keep the community safe and don't have people commit other crimes," Chavez said.


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4 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2017 at 10:41 am

Are you FREAKIN kidding me?!? I call for a complete tax revolt! I don't want one red cent of mine to be spent helping bail criminals out of jail. Isn't bail supposed to ensure the criminal has a stake and incentive to stay through the trial? What's to prevent them from skipping and leaving the taxpayers on the hook? Not only will this encourage more criminals to take risks, since there are slim to no consequences, it is clearly a government money grab. One more avenue for courts and the government to raid the taxpayer coffers!

If private funds want to be set up for this be my guest, just be sure to give the criminals your personal address upon release, so they can rob your house and not mine.

Like this comment
Posted by Judith Wasserman
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 5, 2017 at 11:27 am

Judith Wasserman is a registered user.

Um - what happened to innocent until proven guilty? These arrestees are not criminals until they have been convicted.

2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2017 at 12:25 pm

> what happened to innocent until proven guilty? These arrestees
> are not criminals until they have been convicted.

That's true. But thousands of years of law enforcement has shown that once someone has been charged with a crime, they very often are guilty. Holding these charged individuals in jail until trail has been a very effective way to ensure that these individuals appear before the court. In order to allow charged individuals to prepare for their trials, bail has also proven to be a very effective mechanism to ensure that once released, the charged individual will appear before the court.

What is not mentioned in this article is how many of those people arrested and jailed each year are illegal aliens--who are as likely to leave the County as not, once arrested. The idea that public money should be used to release illegal aliens who have illegally entered the country and then broken local, and/or state, laws makes no sense--even if they are technically considered "innocent".

Given that DUIs arrests are frequent, it's difficult to support a program that allows people to get out of jail, and then leave the country, or move to another state in order to avoid prosecution without at least posting bail.

There is an argument that the cost of incarceration should be considered and deserves some additional financial analysis. However, it seems likely that
this program is destined to failure and should not be funded with public funds.

3 people like this
Posted by Pander Dander
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 5, 2017 at 10:26 pm

yet another attempt by Democrats to pander to and elicit votes from their fine up-standing citizens

1 person likes this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2017 at 7:05 pm

Much better to leave them in jail until their hearing or trial. Let them out on bail and they will start to sell drugs, commit burglaries, etc.
Letting them out is another typical left wing solution to let everybody out of jail because they are in jail because of "the system" and not because of their own behavior.

Like this comment
Posted by @jerry99
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2017 at 7:15 pm

[Post removed.]

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