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Criminal-Justice Reform on CA Ballot in November

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- In two weeks, Californians will decide on three criminal-justice reform ballot measures.

Proposition 25 would repeal the current system of cash bail. Instead people would be released while awaiting trial for certain low-level crimes. For mid-level crimes, a judge would use an algorithm to help decide whether a person must be held until trial. Those accused of serious crimes would remain behind bars until trial.

Mike Herald, policy director with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said cash bail is very punitive for low-income defendants.

"Many people ended up getting held in jail for months on end simply because they didn't have the money to be able to get out on bail," Herald said. "And then other folks who did get out on bail often were stuck with very large bills."

Right now, even if charges are dropped, people still have to pay 10% back to a bail bondsman. Opponents say the change will put the entire bail bond industry out of business.

Proposition 17 would allow certain felons to regain their right to vote once they have finished their sentence - whereas now they remain disenfranchised, often for many more years, until both their sentence and their parole is complete.

Proposition 20 would restrict or deny early parole for certain violent crimes. It would reclassify certain crimes as "wobblers," likely resulting in higher penalties, and require DNA collection for some misdemeanors. Herald said Prop 20 would have a disproportionate effect on people of color.

"We're over-policing, and too many people are being drawn into the criminal-justice system for minor things that end up sticking with them for the rest of their lives," he said.

Prop 20 would roll back reforms passed by voters via Propositions 47 and 57.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.




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