Letters to the Editor: SB 10 is the wrong replacement for California’s unjust money bail system

Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles
An inmates flashes a hand signal at the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles.
(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

To the editor: Your editorial is right to call for “better justice before trial for defendants with or without money.” Unfortunately, your support of Senate Bill 10, which is headed for a referendum in 2020, is misguided.

Eliminating cash bail is urgent and necessary, but we must ensure we’re not replacing one bad bail system with another.

While SB 10 would eliminate cash bail and appear to attack wealth-based detention, it also embraces a system of algorithms based on statistical models that are used to determine who is in and who is out before trial. Like cash bail, this attempt at predicting future behavior turns the presumption of innocence on its head and can result in jail time before a court has evaluated any evidence against you.


Prominent researchers and scientists from leading academic institutions recently argued in a letter to officials in California that these tools “suffer from serious technical flaws that undermine their accuracy, validity, and effectiveness.” The algorithms rely on historical criminal justice data that are riddled with racial and economic disparities.

The choice is not SB 10 or the current system. We have an opportunity to reimagine pretrial justice. Let’s not miss our chance.

Robin Steinberg, Marina del Rey

The writer is chief executive of the Bail Project and a senior fellow of the Criminal Justice Program at UCLA School of Law.


To the editor: The L.A. Times rightfully describes California’s money bail system as unjust. Yet the alternative it supports, SB 10, is also fundamentally flawed.

While SB 10 does end money bail, it gives judges unfettered discretion to detain people indefinitely. The result is that more, not fewer, people could be jailed pretrial because of this unchecked discretion.


For proponents of bail reform, this is no victory. Simply switching one evil for another is not the only choice.

To find a third option we can look to places like New York state, which recently passed a sweeping new bail law that eliminates money bail and prohibits the use of jail for 90% of all offenses, or New Jersey, where pretrial detention decreased by 30% within two years of bail reform.

Now is the time for California to take a different path.

Michelle Parris, Los Angeles

The writer is a senior planner at the Vera Institute of Justice.