Bail reform advocates gather at annual fundraiser

COURTESY
COURTESY

Speakers criticize “unconstitutional” system

On Nov. 19, the Davis Vanguard hosted its annual fundraiser for its nonprofit court watch organization which monitors malpractice in local courts. This year’s event focused on bail reform. Guest speakers included Equal Justice Under the Law director Phil Telfeyan and San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi.

David Greenwald, editor and founder of the Davis Vanguard, was one of the key organizers of the event. The event helped to secure funding for the Davis Vanguard for the rest of 2016. According to Greenwald, tickets sold out quickly, and there were over 200 attendees, all interested in hearing about the reform movement.

“We have an annual event on a variety of different topics, [but] this is the first time we’ve done bail reform.” Greenwald said. “[This] has been an issue that has kind of just been below the surface […] there’s a huge fairness factor involved in bail reform that people that can’t afford to get out on bail end up staying in custody and suffer a whole bunch of consequences for staying in custody. It’s not based on what most people think, which is risks to society, it’s just based on their ability to pay.”

Jeff Adachi is a well-known advocate for bail reform and was pleased to be able to highlight his cause to a new audience.

“It’s an issue that’s very dear to my heart,” Adachi said. “I believe that bail reform is one of the most critical issues in terms of ensuring that people are treated fairly. We have a system in the United States which keeps people detained because they don’t have enough money to post bail. It’s fundamentally unfair.”

Adachi is confident that actual reform will take place soon and hopes to replace the system with alternatives used by many other countries.

“I would like to see a non-monetary bail system,” Adachi said. “[There are] only two countries in the world that allow a profit generating business to help with bail, and that’s the United States and the Philippines. There will be a bail reform bill this year, the city attorney and the sheriff has said that they believe that bail is unconstitutional, so there you have the party that normally would defend this saying that it’s indefensible.”

One recent initiative to address some of the ethical issues surrounding bail took place in Santa Clara County. The initiative, drawn up and approved by the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, removed bail requirements for specific types of low level crimes. Although the measure was approved, it still faces heavy opposition from the bail bond industry and has yet to be fully implemented.

In an interview with CBS KPIX news anchor Len Ramirez, LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge and legal analyst in Santa Clara County, highlighted the reform as a big step in the right direction.

“The bail reform initiated in Santa Clara County is huge, it’s a big deal,” Cordell said in the interview. “In fact, it is a game changer. The bail system has been discriminating against poor people, many of whom are people of color. What Santa Clara County has done is turn that upside down.”

Despite successes in places like Santa Clara, Adachi knows that the system will not to change overnight. He views present legislation, such as a pro-reform bill introduced by California State Assemblyman Rob Bonta, as evidence that the country is moving in the right direction.

“We’re […] seeing […] a huge push to change the bail system once and for all,” Adachi said. “It will be slow because it’s state by state, but it is going to happen.”

Written By: Juno Bhardwaj-shah — city@theaggie.org