Lakewood, CO (November 4, 2020) – California's Proposition 25 went down to a resounding defeat in Tuesday's general election. The fight over the state's move to a no-money bail system, which dragged on for four years, was rejected by voters despite major support by wealthy backers.
The measure had its roots in Senate Bill 10, which was pushed through by state lawmakers two years ago without input from the public. That piece of legislation was built on the argument that if a person arrested for a crime is unable to afford their bail, it is fundamentally wrong. Therefore, a computer algorithm should be used instead to determine who gets out with no monetary conditions at all -- and who is forced to remain in jail with no further recourse.
A referendum effort was subsequently launched, teaming up groups not traditionally aligned, in an effort to defeat the bill which would have eliminated the constitutional right to bail. They included the NAACP, Crime Survivors Resource Center and Crime Victims United, along with a large number of law enforcement organizations.
In addition, the passage of Proposition 25 would have implemented preventative detention policies based on the results of a computer algorithm. Opponents were also concerned that innocent defendants would be caught-up in a dragnet of supervision created by local governments.
“This is a generationally significant moment in the history of the Eighth Amendment. Voters have declared that they will not tolerate any effort to deny them the fundamental constitutional right to bail,” said Jeffrey J. Clayton, Executive Director of the American Bail Coalition, the organization that sponsored the referendum effort. “It was truly an honor to fight shoulder to shoulder with civil rights groups and law enforcement against this misguided legislation. Voters recognized that while we don’t often agree on criminal justice reform, when we do, it’s because all of us consider watching out for the best interests of the people our highest priority."
The Yes on Proposition 25 campaign was spearheaded by several top-level public officials, most prominently state Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys). A cavalcade of billionaires hopped aboard the bandwagon, as did public employee unions eager to pocket union dues from the creation of county-level jobs supervising innocent defendants. Few if any progressive civil rights groups, including the ACLU, supported Proposition 25 or Senate Bill 10. Despite their continuing argument that the current criminal justice system is in need of reform, none believed that Senate Bill 10, or by extension, Proposition 25, offered a viable solution.
The effort for the referendum drive, as well as the No on Proposition 25 campaign, was funded largely by private bail agents and the insurance companies that back them.
"The bail agents and licensed insurance corporations who funded this effort always knew that the issue was far greater than just the future of their industry. It was about the fundamental principles behind every citizens' rights," Clayton said. "When you can overrule a bill supported and passed by the legislature, governor and chief justice by appealing directly to the people -- a difficult, if not nearly impossible task -- it proves that we were on the right side of history all along."
With the defeat of Proposition 25, the outlook for bail reform in California is unclear. What seems certain for the immediate future is that the state legislature cannot move once again to eliminate monetary bail.
Clayton said, “We hope the state respects the will of the voters, and instead, looks to other reasonable pathways to bail reform. We look forward to being a part of that conversation as we move forward.”