By David Mauroff
Last week, the California Supreme Court issued an historic bail judgment confirming the innovative framework developed by the San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project and our partners. The decision of the California Supreme Court was intended to enable better and equitable access to justice across the state and would not have been possible without the courage and tenacity of Kenneth Humphrey, the San Francisco Public Defender and the Civil Rights Corps. We celebrate their victory and we are committed to expanding our model of pre-trial rights.
As a result of the ruling, individuals across the state can no longer be held in prison simply because they cannot afford to pay bail, which reaffirms a fundamental principle of our legal system: people are innocent until proven guilty. For too long, wealth has been the biggest determinant of whether or not someone is offered pre-trial release. Pretrial detention disproportionately affects people of skin color and with fewer resources – even a few days in prison can result in the loss of a job, a home, child custody, or other life-changing circumstances. Faced with these challenges, those who cannot afford bail often face difficult choices of remaining in custody, pleading guilty, getting out of jail regardless of guilt or innocence, or paying a non-refundable fee to bail Companies that have benefited from this system for decades and that sometimes engage in compulsive and financially predatory behavior.
San Francisco can serve as a pre-trial model for the state as litigation in the Humphrey case has already resulted in a number of changes in the practices and procedures of the San Francisco Supreme Court. Following the 2018 Humphrey Appeals Court ruling, San Francisco found higher pre-trial firing rates and fewer bail layoffs. As a result, our Sheriff’s Office, Mayor’s Office, and Board of Supervisors responded with a significant investment in the Pretrial Diversion Project in San Francisco. Since its inception in 1976, SF Pretrial has supported bail reform as a not-for-profit organization and introduced innovative release practices, always conscious of our commitment to protecting the safety of the public and crime victims. With roots dating back to 1964, we are a neutral and independent non-profit pre-trial solution that operates outside of law enforcement. SF Pretrial develops customer-centric services designed to assist individuals who are considered innocent when they appear in court and go on with their lives.
SF Pretrial is committed to a fairer and more equitable judicial system and is responding to the downstream impact of litigation related to bail reform by offering a full and diverse range of customer-facing services that help courts more easily accommodate non-monetary clearance requirements. Since the impact of Humphrey in San Francisco, our case management program publications have doubled, while our public safety and court occurrence rates continue to match and exceed scores among the most pre-eminent pre-litigation systems in the nation, delivering return on investment in community resources as confirmed by SF Pretrial.
While the California Supreme Court decision marks a victory for communities across the state, much remains to be done. In responding to this decision, jurisdictions must consider how additional support can be added to existing resources to create a new culture of pre-trial justice.
Working with our community and criminal justice colleagues, SF’s comprehensive pretrial framework includes in-custody services, re-entry planning, clearance facilitation, customer monitoring and case management. We offer a wide range of support services as outlined in Humphrey’s decision, including referrals to partner agencies for mental health, substance use, housing, family support, medical services, and the like. With the support of the Sheriff’s Office, a decades-long partnership, SF Pretrial is an example of how law enforcement assets can be divested to develop community-based solutions. We are offering the state our exemplary and exemplary partnership with the Supreme Court, Sheriff, District Attorney, Bar Association, Public Defender, Parole Department, Police Department, and dozens of community partners as a fully functional response to the Humphrey decision. Our agency and pre-trial system have evolved significantly over the past few years, and we strive to share our experience and framework with jurisdictions across California.
More information is available at www.sfpretrial.org.
David Mauroff is CEO of the San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project.
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