Bail has been a major focus for activists in recent years. These advocates argue that the bail system disproportionately affects the poor. They assert that this is especially true for minor offenses such as misdemeanors and traffic offenses. While these arguments may have some merit, there could be unintended consequences of comprehensive reform, such as dangerous criminals being released with no bail. This issue has come back into focus in the last few days as Los Angeles’ new District Attorney made sweeping reforms that eradicate bail on his first day in office.
Meet George Gascón, Los Angeles DA
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, on his first day in office, unveiled a dramatic set of plans for criminal justice reform in the nation’s most populated county. One of his plans includes moving to phase out cash bail for all misdemeanors and some felony offenses.
“I recognize for many this is a new path… Whether you are a protester, a police officer, or a prosecutor, I ask you to walk with me,” Gascón said at the first press conference of his new job. “I ask you to join me on this journey. We can break the multigenerational cycles of violence, trauma, and arrest and recidivism that [have] led America to incarcerate more people than any other nation.”
Changes to Bail, Death Penalty, and Sentencing Standards
Among the changes, many of which went into effect the day after he was installed, he calls for ending the death penalty, stopping most uses of cash bail for misdemeanor nonserious or nonviolent felony offenses, and prioritizing cases for resentencing inmates who are serving excessive prison terms. According to a special directive effective Tuesday, prosecutors will now be instructed to ask the court for the criminal defendant’s release. Bail can still be considered at arraignment if the defendant is accused of a violent felony or sexual assault.
In 2018, outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill ending cash bail in the nation’s most populous state. However, the bail bond industry challenged the measure, and a 2020 state ballot initiative that would have upheld the law failed to secure sufficient support.
Impact Across the Bail Industry
While the reforms DA Gascón makes in Los Angeles don’t immediately affect any areas outside the city, it could still have a broader impact. Many other cities look to larger metropolitan areas like L.A. when they enact reforms like this to see how they work. If they go well, they may adopt similar policies in their own cities. Additionally, it sets a precedent for what other progressive DAs can accomplish in their cities by special directive.
Get Out of Jail With A-EZ Out Bail Bonds
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