California legislators have voted to eradicate bail in favor of a computer-driven algorithm tool called, “risk-assessment.” The chant heard throughout California, one that pushed the SB10 bill forward, was backed by many entertainers who have used the no money, no bail as their cause cèlèbre. It ignited widespread negativity about the bail process. Hey, those money-grubbing-no-conscious-no-good, low-life bail people should be eradicated, was the rallying cry! Really? Californians have no clue about the impact of an AI (artificial intelligence) algorithm tool. In fact, neither do the legislators!
So, without any understanding of how bail works, the firestorm blazed through the California legislature, as it has in many other states. Now, many of those states who embraced it are having second thoughts about its effectiveness. In fact, some California legislators are declaring they have been duped! It’s not going to work, as they are being told. It’s truly and solely a social experiment backed by private enterprise. It’s a tool that creates extreme racial bias – much more than bail vs. money, as the studies are beginning to show.
To the point, an arrestee may be unfairly scored based on numerous factors they do not control; such as socioeconomic status. This could be a predictive on recidivism, but not necessarily true to a particular arrestee. Multiple states: New Jersey, New Mexico, Kentucky and Alaska are warning California NOT to go forward.
These states are forewarning California that it’s not about the bail money; it’s about putting criminals back on the streets quickly with this tool and without consequences. Alaska calls it the Catch-and–Release program. In fact, Pennsylvania rates murder as 1 out of 10 using this tool – get the picture?
Of course, it’s not necessarily in the hands of the legislators – it’s in the hands of the public to vote this in or out. With a successful referendum on its way to the ballot box and over 400,000 signatures collected in favor of squelching this bill, the question will be, “Is this enough public awareness to vote it down in 2020?” Does the public really care about criminals or bail? Probably not! Unless, it’s relevant to the individual. Bail and jail is not palatable to most people – it’s ugly and always controversial. However, crime is relevant to everyone and as citizens we expect our law makers to do the right thing – protect us! In this case, it appears that shifting blame and the responsibility of sentencing criminals using unsubstantiated scoring methods, never mind the get-out-of-jail free card, begs concern over their thinking. What are you thinking? Why do we vote you into office? Hey, legislators (Mr. Hertzberg) wake up. You’ve probably just made a major mistake falling into lock-step with other states. Bail definitely works!
By Sharla Esparza
Acme Bail Bonds