‘Outdated, unsafe, unfair:’ coronavirus renews battle over California’s cash bail system


State slashed bail in response to Covid-19, sparking a debate that echoes longstanding tensions about criminal justice reform

As coronavirus tore through jails and prisons across the United States, California reduced bail for most low-level offenses to $0, allowing thousands of defendants to wait out their court dates at home instead of in custody.

The response across the criminal justice system in the state has been disparate, echoing longstanding tensions about reform. Prosecutors in Tulare county have “worked around the clock” to oppose the early release of more than 1,000 defendants, according to the district attorney there. In Los Angeles, leaked emails showed the district attorney’s office instructing prosecutors to seek a loophole in the new bail schedule for some cases. And police unions in cities across California have argued the emergency schedule will lead to an uptick in crime.

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