With the pre-arraignment revolving door becoming standard operating procedure in today’s California jails, a California bail agent who asked to remain anonymous, walked the Globe through the legal cases and decisions that got us to this point, as well as how local jurisdictions, like the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, have ended their use of the San Francisco Bail Schedule. Everyone booked into jail is given “$0” bail and held until their case is evaluated.
A report last summer found that 74 percent of San Francisco’s most violent offenders committed new crimes before trial, ABC7 reported. The report also shows in nearly 30% of cases, judges released individuals against the recommendation of the pretrial assessment. And it’s only getting worse.
The revolving door isn’t really working.
Buffin v. City and County of San Francisco authorized the use of the San Francisco Felony and Misdemeanor Bail Schedule to determine pretrial release violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution, the bail agent said.
This all was put into motion in December 2016 when then-Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D) and Senator Bob Hertzberg (D) unveiled a bill to reform the state’s bail system saying, “California’s bail system punishes poor people simply for being poor,” on behalf of social justice non-profit law organization Equal Justice Under Law.
Bonta has since been appointed California Attorney General in 2020 by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
On October 24, 2017, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye released a report calling for massive reform to the money bail system, stating that holding suspects in jail simply because they cannot afford to pay bail is unfair to people who are poor.
On March 4, 2019, United States District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers signed the final judgment Buffin v. City and County of San Francisco.
The Globe reported in 2019 that the California Supreme Court jumped the gun and started to implement the policies of Senate Bill 10, The California Bail Reform Act, ahead of its effective date of Oct. 1, 2019, to eliminate the cash bail system.
On February 20, 2020, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department ended their use of the San Francisco Bail Schedule. Everyone booked into jail is given “0” bail and held until their case is evaluated.
There are 5 reports of the San Francisco Sheriff’s pre-arraignment release timelines dating from February 20, 2020 through May 31, 2021. One is included below.
It’s difficult to understand San Francisco County’s pre-arraignment revolving door of arrest and speedy release, and what crimes are eligible for “free” release, discharge or dismissal prior to seeing a sitting Judge on the record, in open Court. If a case is dismissed or discharged prior to arraignment, it is as though it never happened and does not become a statistic, the bail agent said.
The bail agent prepared this list, trying to make sense of the new procedures:
- Each jail has a Federal Cap (maximum inmate count)
- In order to not exceed the Federal Cap, inmates are released
- Due to the drastic reduction of bail bond releases in SF caused by the Buffin ruling, there is an increase in (free releases) zero bail, citation, own recognizance (O.R.)
- The reports give a lot of information, but for now let’s focus on the pie charts (below)
- Pie chart – “Bookings by Legal Proceedings”: indicates free releases prior to arraignment and those that are ineligible and must see a sitting Judge for a decision
- Pie chart – “Charge Category Breakdown for those Eligible for Pre-Arraignment” is scary. These are crimes broken down by percentages eligible for release PRIOR to arraignment thus prior to a review and decision of a sitting Judge.
- Focusing on the revolving door, one of the largest piece of the pie: Felony burglary, theft, fraud or receiving stolen property 22% (GRAB), Felony vandalism 10% (SMASH), Felony firearm 7% (ARMED)……… eligible for pre-arraignment review for release?
- Felony drug sales 28%……… eligible for pre-arraignment review for release?
- Child pornography 2% ……… eligible for pre-arraignment review for release?
- Felony assault 2% ……… eligible for pre-arraignment review for release?
“No wonder crime is up and getting worse,” the bail agent said. “No one is held accountable nor are there any repercussions for pulling off a crime and getting arrested! The lack of accountability and respect has been lost. There is no basic deterrent for committing most crimes.”
“Gov. Gavin Newsom should strongly enforce and prosecute current gun laws ie. felons in possession and use of firearms in commission of a crime and illegal possession of concealed firearms. Passing new laws won’t do anything if prosecutors continue to dismiss, discharge and free release illegal possession and use firearms.”
San Francisco elimination of bail schedule – Buffin document 1
SFSD pre-arraignment release per Buffin June 1, 2020 to August