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 		 [Led by people directly impacted by imprisonment, organizations in
California have been building on the growing national momentum to end
the money bail system.] [https://portside.org/] 

 THE PROBLEM WITH BAIL ISN’T THE BONDSMEN, IT’S THE STATE  
[https://portside.org/2018-09-03/problem-bail-isnt-bondsmen-its-state]


 

 Lily Fahsi-Haskell and Mohamed Shehk 
 August 23, 2018
Truthout
[https://truthout.org/articles/the-problem-with-bail-isnt-the-bondsmen-its-the-state/]


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 _ Led by people directly impacted by imprisonment, organizations in
California have been building on the growing national momentum to end
the money bail system. _ 

 California Gov. Jerry Brown conducts a press conference declaring the
state's prison emergency over at his Los Angeles office in January,
2013., Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images 

 

While organizations ranging from the San Francisco Public Defenders to
the Essie Justice Group [https://essiejusticegroup.org/] (a community
of women with imprisoned loved ones) initially sought to accomplish
this through Senate Bill 10 (SB 10)
[https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB10],
a piece of state legislation that as initially drafted would do away
with money bail, these organizations plus 50 other legal and
community-based groups have pulled their support for the bill within
the last week. The growing opposition
[http://www.curbprisonspending.org/2018/08/22/vetosb10/] cited
concerns that the governor-supported and ultimately signed version
will make it harder for people to get released and create more
conditions of release, thus resulting in a larger jail population as
well as heightened surveillance of pre-trial defendants in community.

The organizations that ceased supporting SB 10 continue to stand in
opposition to the parasitic bail bonds industry, which has fought
tooth and nail to maintain its profits, but the two warring groups —
anti-imprisonment organizations and bail industries — ended up
technically on the same side of the issue, with both wanting SB 10 to
fail. This turn of events serves to expose the central problem as
pretrial imprisonment and punitive government policy rather than money
bail and the bail bond industries.

While bondsmen emerged as villains in the media, behind the scenes
lawmakers quietly and gradually eroded the bill’s substance. Though
earlier versions of SB 10 would not have completely eliminated
pretrial imprisonment, the bill would have taken concrete steps to
reduce the number of people held before trial by creating a very
restricted standard for allowing pretrial detention and releasing
people with fewer conditions. However, the version backed by and
signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown merely replaces one form of
pretrial imprisonment with another by focusing on ending money bail
— while simultaneously giving judges enhanced discretion to detain,
adding funding to probation departments for increased surveillance,
and mandating the use of algorithm-based risk assessments to predict
an individual’s future actions. SB 10, in its gutted version, is a
liberal reform that will indeed eliminate money bail, providing cover
for lawmakers to replace the bail system with an ulterior motive of
expanded imprisonment. In essence, it will do away with the profit
motive of the bail industry without guarantees of reducing the numbers
of people detained pretrial in California’s jails. Given the
bill’s provisions for expanding judicial power alongside the
implementation of racist risk assessment tools
[https://leadershipconferenceedfund.org/pretrial-risk-assessment/], we
can anticipate that more – not fewer – people will be locked up
pretrial. And we can certainly anticipate that those people will
overwhelmingly be Black, Brown and working class.

SB 10 might release some people jailed pretrial on low-level charges,
however will likely widen the net of imprisonment. Meanwhile, those
who get out will be released into the tentacles of a growing probation
and electronic monitoring system that would surround these people —
as well as their families and communities — with heightened
surveillance and mechanisms of control. Whereas probation departments
are currently primarily responsible for people being released from
jails, this bill will expand their scope to include massive monitoring
of people not yet convicted.

The current direction of SB 10 is only one sliver of the shifting
landscape of imprisonment driven by both “tough on crime” and
liberal politicians. In the case of California over the last decade,
state lawmakers have paved a path toward the expansion of local jail
systems
[https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/07/02/california-s-jail-building-boom]
with all but a handful of counties currently renovating, rebuilding,
expanding or building new jails. This came as a response to a 2009
federal court ruling against over-crowding in the California prison
system that forced a population reduction plan. It is no surprise that
Governor Brown — who in his first gubernatorial stint in the 1970s
helped set the stage for California’s prison boom
[https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3954-prisons-and-class-warfare-an-interview-with-ruth-wilson-gilmore]
— is proposing a new policy that will serve to keep these county
jails open and filled. Now organizations waging campaigns across the
state to reduce imprisonment and stop jail expansion are fighting
tooth and nail against what was intended to be a useful reform.

The story of SB 10 is a familiar one of policy reform gone haywire,
with politicians manipulating community interests towards political
gain in a final gut-and-amend maneuver. As movements fight to scale
back the reach of the prison-industrial complex, the shift from
victory to potential loss is a harsh reminder of the nature and aims
of imprisonment. Imprisonment enforces social control in order to
uphold economic, racial and social orders for the state to function as
designed; that some private entities are able to make a profit by
exploiting this enforcement of social control is merely capitalizing
on its function, and not the cause of imprisonment. Thus, reforms that
attack private profit as their end goal but do not target the state or
its capacity to cage people are even more prone to result in mere
shifts to the shape of imprisonment, rather than steps towards its
dismantlement. By anticipating these kinds of maneuvers and in
response to longstanding state reforms
[https://theappeal.org/ditching-the-bondsman-is-only-part-of-the-battle-for-bail-reform-3dd8e4198213/],
some organizations such as the Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) have
emphasized abolitionist reforms through their campaigns with the
ultimate goal of ending pretrial imprisonment rather than ending money
(or “cash”) bail. While no friend to the bail industry,
organizations such as CCBF focuses framing and long term strategies on
ending pretrial imprisonment — thereby hammering slowly and steadily
against the state as the driver of imprisonment, rather than the
bondsmen who mostly just stand to make a buck.

Bail industries came out in full force against SB 10 and, driven by
their own economic interests, will continue to oppose such
legislation. Industries such as these will consistently lobby for
“tough on crime” policies and other measures that will increase
imprisonment as long as the state provides an arena for their profit.
However, eliminating the incentives for corporate profit will not
eliminate the state’s need and interest in growing and maintaining
the prison industrial complex. Rather, it will result in a hardening
of these functions within the public sector (i.e., the state) — a
losing game for communities most targeted by imprisonment, courts,
policing and surveillance.

The story of SB 10 is a familiar one of policy reform gone haywire,
with politicians manipulating community interests towards political
gain.

SB 10 highlights an important example of why those of us fighting
against imprisonment must continue to be resolute in fighting for
abolitionist reforms that target the state as drivers of the prison
industrial complex and attack the root of the issue. Liberal reforms
to imprisonment are a bait-and-switch that position democratic
politicians as heroes in the public eye while they simultaneously
imprison more people.

Communities aren’t falling for it this time. Efforts for reforming
or abolishing money bail
[http://criticalresistance.org/bail_takeaways_flyer/] must include
investments in alternatives to imprisonment that are not reliant on
probation or surveillance, come with political commitment to shrink
and close jails, and work to reduce community surveillance and law
enforcement control rather than use them as replacements.

_Lily Fahsi-Haskell is Campaign Director of Critical Resistance, a
national organization working to abolish the prison industrial
complex. _

_Mohamed Shehk is Media and Communication_s_ Director of Critical
Resistance, a national organization working to abolish the prison
industrial complex. _

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