On Tuesday, Californians voted against Proposition 25, allowing cash bail to continue in California.
As of 7:30 PM on Wednesday, 55% of California voters voted against the proposition with 72% of precincts reporting in, a lead large enough for political analysts to announce a defeat of the proposition.
Prop 25 had its origins with SB 10, a Senate Bill signed by former Governor Jerry Brown in 2018 that ended cash bail in favor of risk assessment bail, basing bail on safety or flight risk. However, the American Bail Association immediately acted and drew up a petition to halt SB 10 from becoming active and switching over bail systems. This delayed the implementation of the new law, originally scheduled for October of 2019, and became Proposition 25 earlier this year. Had Prop 25 passed, then SB 10 would have gone forward without any more challenges.
Supporters of replacing the cash bail system in favor of risk assessment bail argued that taxpayers would ultimately save money by having fewer people in jails awaiting hearings, and said that cash bail was classist, allowing wealthier people jailed to get out while keeping poorer people in. Supporters included Governor Gavin Newsom, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and many Hollywood actors and actresses, including Danny Trejo, who helped lead one of the largest groups for Prop 25.
On Wednesday, many supporters noted their disappointment with the results, explaining that it would be much harder to pass any kind of legislation to end cash bail in the future because of the Proposition’s failure.
“SB 10 was our shot, and Prop 25 was an extension of that,” Duane Reese, a proponent of Prop 25 who had helped fundraise earlier this year, told the Globe. “Now, you know, it’s done. It’s going to be really hard to overturn this. We’d need another proposition. And in the meantime, so many more people are going to be held for money. It’s ridiculous.
“It goes to show you just how powerful the bail industry is here.”
Opponents of Prop 25 have said that the removal of the entire bail system would take away thousands of jobs from Californians when they need them most, would allow criminals to be let go on their own recognizance in many cases, and doesn’t address biases against people of color in the criminal justice system. Because of the wildly different reasons to oppose Prop 25, many organizations found themselves in support of each other over the issues, including the bail industry, the California Peace Officers’ Association, the NAACP, and Human Rights Watch. The grouping is notable for being even more unlikely following the groups opposition of each other during the George Floyd protests only months before.
Celebration in keeping the cash bail system
Opponents celebrated the voting results on Tuesday, explaining that the bill passed because of its wide array of support.
#NoOnProp25 Grassroots Campaign DEFEATED #Prop25 and is poised to lead on REAL criminal legal reform! The Committee Against Pre-Trial Racism and the larger movement with @noonprop25ca showed what people power looks like and we’re just getting started!
— No on CA Prop 25 (@noonprop25ca) November 4, 2020
“We had black leaders angry at the bill not confronting racial biases when it came to bail, and the bail blond industry afraid of being out of business and police officers saying that it would be a huge safety risk, as there is already risk assessment procedures in place,” said former bail bondsman Ricardo Mendez in a Globe interview. “It isn’t really the overall power of the bail industry – there were just fighting for their lives. What really happened was that they left so many loose ends open in terms of support. They banked on California’s diverse population in supporting Prop 25 but forgot at the exact same time that California is diverse and that you need to address problems to get people on board. They didn’t do that.
“Instead, the bail industry gets to live. Which means a lot of people get to keep their jobs and a lot of people will sleep easier knowing that criminals now have additional leverage put on them to go to court and face justice. That’s really what this is about, having people face justice. You can’t do that on a simple risk assessment honor system.”
Supporters have hinted that another proposition to get rid of cash bail may come up in the near future, but with no additional details confirmed.
Final vote counts for all of California’s propositions are due to be counted in total sometime during the week.