San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced her office’s new cash bail and pre-trial detention policies.
The policy allows prosecutors to request bail in less serious cases. A request for pretrial lockup may also be permitted in felony cases when there is a “substantial likelihood” that the defendant will harm a victim or the public or will skip a court date. Judges will ultimately decide whether a defendant will remain in custody. “Cash bail unfairly penalizes those with less financial means and disproportionately affects defendants of color,” Jenkins said in a statement on Thursday. “Protecting victims and ensuring public safety are my top priorities. We will not shy away from holding offenders accountable, but we will not perpetuate further injustice and inequities.”
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Cash bail has disproportionately impacted racial minorities, according to research conducted by the San Francisco’s Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector last year. In 2021, the California Supreme Court also deemed cash bail to be unconstitutional for defendants who cannot afford it.
Jenkins’ new policies are similar to Boudin’s reforms. Boudin previously ended cash bail entirely in 2020, citing his favor of a “risk-based” detention system.
Public Defender Mano Raju criticized Jenkins’ new policy in a statement, noting that it was regressive. He said that detaining defendants before trial destabilizes them, which can pressure them to take plea deals for crimes they did not commit or make them more likely to be charged with a crime.
“Jenkins’ characterization of this new policy as limited is disingenuous as the stated policy is both broad and vague,” Raju said. “Even before District Attorney Jenkins issued this policy, we’ve seen her office expand the use of money bail to detain people accused of misdemeanors, and we are concerned that more of our clients will be harmed in light of this announcement.”
Although Jenkins does not agree with eliminating cash bail entirely, she said she wants to take the public’s safety into account when defendants are released from custody.
“We are working hard to maintain a system that is more equitable and fair, particularly for our defendants of color who most often are the ones who are disadvantaged with respect to bail in our criminal justice system,” Jenkins said.