Home>Articles>Decarceration Through the Side Door: The Effect of Zero Bail

Handcuffs and Wooden Gavel.(Photo: Proxima Studio/Shuttertock)

Decarceration Through the Side Door: The Effect of Zero Bail

What better way to decarcerate than not incarcerating in the first place?

By Thomas Buckley, September 25, 2023 9:03 am

How do you make sure there are fewer people in jail?

Put fewer in.

And if your whole point is to decarcerate, as the progressives like to say, then what better way to start than not incarcerating in the first place?

Los Angeles County’s new zero bail policy will do just that.  Coupled with the ever-shortening sentences handed out in certain locales, the need to actively release people from jail to achieve the woke platonic ideal will lessen and lessen over time until there is no one left to let out.

Why zero bail is even considered as an option is a bit puzzling – if you look at it logically. Bail keeps people from committing more crimes – it’s not even a matter for debate. 

Bail can be seen a bit like an insurance deductible  If you have decent insurance you still most likely have one, but it’s there for more than to create income for the insurer: in large part, it’s there to keep people from overusing their benefits, costing the insurer even more.

If something’s free, people use more of it.  If crime is free, people commit more of it.  

It really is that simple.

But what about equity – why should a rich guy walk out while a poor guy has to languish behind bars?  

That’s not the point of bail – the point is to set it high enough to make sure the defendant actually keeps showing up in court.  There could be an argument made for income-proportional bail – some people can blithely walk away from $1,000 – some can’t and stay in jail but do have $200 they can pay but cannot afford to lose, but that proposition is fraught with other issues.

Zero bail proponents play upon the seeming injustice of that difference in impact.  Murderer number one – who really probably did it – is hit with a $1 million dollar bail and simply uses an app on his phone to walk away from jail.  Murderer number two stays behind bars for two years and ends up being found not guilty.

This disparity feels unfair to most people and that feeling is what proponents are using, nudging people to translate that unease from specific cases to the entire concept of bail.  And they’ve been surprisingly successful over the past few years at convincing electeds and experts and commentators and the media – just not the public – that it’s a good idea despite it being based on an extrapolative lie.

LA’s new bail schedule – set to go in effect October 1 – is a social justice warrior’s dream but utterly absurd to anyone who has even a glancing relationship with reality. Essentially, nearly all misdemeanors are either “cite and release (CR)” – a ticket, actually, “book and release (BR)” – a trip to the police station for a picture and such, and “magistrate review (MR)” which involves going before a judge to set bail (which can be set at zero, by the way.)

For example, theft under $950 is set at CR, as is “Retail Theft Committed by Recruiting, Coordinating etc. Another to Undertake Specified Acts” (the flash mob smash and grab people must really like that one.) 

As to felonies, the more serious offense like murder and rape still carry cash bail on the schedule, but others do not.  For example, bookmaking and selling a false identity are CR and theft above $950 and theft of an automobile are both BR.

Know what else is BR?  False imprisonment and distribution of child pornography. As to MR, that category – again, with no set bail –  includes residential burglary even when the residents are home and…wait for it…human trafficking, including people who are trafficking minors.

Know what else is MR, or in other words the same level of awfulness as human trafficking and burglary?  “Refusal to Cooperate with Local Health Officer Quarantine.”  (you can almost hear Barbara Ferrer cackling in the background.)

Code 120295 reads as follows: Any person who violates Section 120130 or any section in Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 120175, but excluding Section 120195), is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment for a term of not more than 90 days, or by both. He or she is guilty of a separate offense for each day that the violation continued.”

And what is section 120130, you may ask?  That is the quarantine law, which includes “The health officer may require strict or modified isolation, or quarantine, for any case of contagious, infectious, or communicable disease, when this action is necessary for the protection of the public health.”

And the law does include the following sections:  “The department may establish and maintain places of quarantine or isolation” and  “To that end, the department may, if it considers it proper, take possession or control of the body of any living person, or the corpse of any deceased person.”

Yup – refusing a lockdown order is just as bad as selling 15-year-old for sex in the eyes of the bail schedule.

One standalone CR in the schedule pertains to the state’s abortion sanctuary, or abortion tourism, laws: 


In accordance with Penal Code section 1269b(f)(2), bail shall be set at zero dollars ($0) and the offense designated as CR for an individual who has been arrested in connection with a proceeding in another state regarding an individual performing, supporting, or aiding in the performance of an abortion in this state, or an individual obtaining an abortion in this state, if the abortion is lawful under the laws of this state.

And this brings us back to de-population.

Earlier this year, the LA county Board of Supervisors shelved a move by member Hilda Solis to let out of jail anyone who was in awaiting trial and had a bail of less than $50,000.

If approved, the measure would have cut the jail population by more than half overnight.

And the interesting thing about the new zero bail schedule?  The crimes that will on October 1 be considered CR, BR, or MR are – overwhelmingly –  the same offenses that would have earned an inmate immediate release under the proposal.

In other words, the new schedule is the same thing as de-carceration –  the only difference is that it will now take a little longer.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Spread the news:


One thought on “Decarceration Through the Side Door: The Effect of Zero Bail

  1. This is a nightmare for L.A. County, of course. The bail system is ingenious, it works, it is efficient, and serves innocent, law-abiding citizens. Through the incentive of NOT losing the amount of the bond, bail agents and companies are incentivized to hold suspects accountable, checking on them and delivering them to court, where the suspects would likely not otherwise appear. California voters had the wisdom to retain it in 2020 when it appeared on the ballot.
    Sen Bob Hertzberg’s “zero bail” swan song, SB 262, actually FAILED —- DID NOT PASS —- on the floor of the assembly (not at all something we often see) last year, Aug 31 2022, at the eleventh hour; thus so-called “zero bail” (zero bail = no jail) is NOT state law at the present time. With the bail system and schedule still in effect as state law would someone please be kind enough to explain to me why this does not blot out L.A. County’s attempt to get rid of or monkey with bail policy in any way, shape, or form? Doesn’t state law override the shenanigans of L.A. County here?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *