The 2020 California election ballot consists of 13 different propositions, the most justifiable being Proposition 25.
Currently, the state of California allows for convicts in jail to be given freedom through the payment of a monetary sum known as money bail.
The enactment of Proposition 25 aims to replace the money bail system with a risk-assessment based system, placing more weight on a person’s reasons for conviction rather than whether their indemnitors have the capital necessary to pay for their bail bonds.
Allowing for cash bails to be a viable manner to release convicts places prejudice against those with low incomes as compared to the rich, who have the means to pay the monetary sum.
A risk assessment-based system would allow for a fairer judgment with income (a factor which has nothing to do with the convict’s criminal charges) not being a factor in the discharge of the inmate.
According to the Official Voter Information Guide, the opposition to this particular approach states that Proposition 25 was written with the intent of stripping Californians of their right to post bail. With this initiative in place, they argue that it replaces their right with a computer-generated profiling system which they deem to be discriminatory.
In this type of system, each county can choose their own algorithm by which they assess an accused’s risk for reoffending. Nevertheless, converting to a risk assessment-based deliberation comes with its own imperfections as it may lead to the marginalization of minorities through location-based risks. If these counties were to choose location as a prime factor in assessing a person’s risk of reoffending, it gives way for prejudice to ensue against individuals living in areas infested with crime. These areas have a lower chance of being given freedom, but even though the system may have its imperfections, it is still arguably more justified as it bases the outcome off of a person’s humanity, rather than their income. Along with this, it would also prove to be more efficient in upholding the code of law through basing the ultimatum off of the details of the accused’s conviction.
This begs the question: Is it justifiable to release a convicted person through the cash bail system just because of an external source with the means to pay off their incarceration?
This is an inexcusable practice as it places unjust preference to those individuals who are willing to provide money, effectively enabling a capitalistic society to overturn the due process that the justice system upholds to the highest standard. Another assertion made in objection to the enactment of this proposition is that it would severely raise taxpayers’ yearly tax rates. They state that it would cost Californians up to millions of dollars per year if the proposition were to take effect. Although it is true that taxpayers would have to pay more in taxes for this bill to be in effect, the benefits outweigh the negatives as the justice system will become more fair in their assessment of whether or not a certain convict should be set free from incarceration. By allowing for a portion of the citizens’ taxes to be allotted for this purpose, it cuts down on the injustice and divisional aspect seen when assessing judicial matters.
One specific recent instance as to when the cash bail system failed to uphold the law was in the case of the murder of George Floyd wherein he went into a state of cardiopulmonary arrest and died after his neck got compressed by a police officer. The police officer in question, Derek Chauvin, was sent to jail, but was eventually released through a $1 million bail, which incited controversy due to the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the fact that someone is able to commit first-degree murder and still be able to gain freedom through the cash bail system.
Another scenario wherein the state of California would benefit from a risk-based assessment system rather than one based on cash bails would be the People v. Turner case wherein a Stanford University student named Brock Turner raped an unconscious woman. He was sentenced to six months in prison, but he got released the same day he got arrested after posting a bail worth $150,000. The topic of whether Turner should have served more time in prison is an important one which is a different issue on its own. However, the fact that he was arrested and released on the same day simply due to him having the money to be able to post bail with hardly any repercussions is absurd.
In a different situation such as the Junior Allen case in 1970, though, wherein he stole a television from a house managed to land him a life sentence that he is still serving to this day. If the risk assessment-based practices were in effect, Turner would be faced with harsher charges than Allen because of the large disparity between the severity of their crimes. In addition, having a murderer be able to live freely while granting a petty thief a lifelong sentence shows the faults in our current system and how a reform would benefit our communities on a larger scale by keeping murderers out of the streets.
By advocating for the passing of Proposition 25, voters are asking the government of California to enact a drastic reform that would make our justice system into a more upright one. Through voting “Yes” on Proposition 25, citizens are inching closer to a future with a more fairly sanctioned judicial system.