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Judge brings zero bail policy back, even as crime-ridden LA suffers

By Savannah Hamilton
May 28, 2023

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff ruled in favor of a zero-bail policy, after a group of activists filed a lawsuit against the county. The six plaintiffs argued that being locked up because one is unable to afford bail is a violation of constitutional rights.

Under the new policy, anyone arrested for misdemeanors and non-violent crimes “would be released on their recognizance or subject to non-monetary conditions.” Non-violent offenses include vandalism, shoplifting, theft, and battery.

However, "Those arrested for sexual offenses, domestic violence and offenses involving weapons will be exempt from the zero-bail policy,” and “those with repeat offenses while out on no bail can be made subject to a cash payment.”

This development has been worrying local residents, especially since crime in the county has been on the rise.

But, L.A. is not new to this. The county had previously paused the requirement for cash bail during the COVID pandemic. At the time, the county was dealing with overcrowded prisons, largely due to a high number of non-violent offenders.

The new policy is expected to be reevaluated in 60 days, during which the local government is expected to explore alternative options to improve the current system. 

A “Get Out of Jail Free” Card — for the Rich

During their case, the aforementioned plaintiffs claimed that the cash bail system is unfair to the underprivileged and can do more harm than good.

“Being jailed for even short periods of time may cause them to lose their jobs, their housing, or custody of their children. They suffer all the harms of confinement in a jail cell even though a large portion of them will never be formally charged with any crime, let alone convicted,” one of the court documents read.

They also suggested that the current bail system has “little to no impact on overall crime.” However, one study in California showed that crime actually tripled when the zero-bail policy was in effect.

Despite this, Riff sided with the plaintiffs and concluded that there was sufficient evidence that they have “suffered” under the current system. He also said there was “no evidence” to disprove their other claims.

According to Riff, it is “unconstitutional to keep people behind bars purely for the reason that they are in poverty is not a legal form of punishment,” the Daily Mail reports.

Go Woke, Go Broke

A statement from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department read, “The Department is aware of the preliminary injunction regarding the cash bail system, and of course will comply with any court-ordered bail schedule. The County is also working with the court and other stakeholders to explore ways to reduce the number of people held before arraignment because they can't afford bail and to provide the Sheriff greater release options to safely reduce the jail population, while always prioritizing public safety.”

While the LAPD agreed to abide by the new policy, others have started speaking out in opposition. Former L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is one of many who argued that removing cash bail is a bad idea.

“The biggest impact actually is not going to be on the sheriff's department, LAPD. It's going to be on the other 45 municipalities that have their own police departments, because now they carry the burden of having to deliver their own inmates to court until the arraignment before they can go into the custody of the sheriff. That's going to be the biggest impact,” said Villanueva.

Others have also stepped up to say the new “woke” policies are destroying the legal system. One example provided by legal professionals is the decimation of Los Angeles’s criminal case handling because of L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón and his liberal views.

As a result, public distrust is reaching new highs.

Gascón is blamed for driving away lawyers and legal professionals from the county because of the backlash they receive on the job. The rapidly fleeing talent has resulted in a massive pile-up of over 10,000 cases that have yet to be addressed.

“In my career as a prosecutor, I've never had victims' families actually hate us until I came into this office. We are hated by all the victims because of lack of prosecution and low sentences because of his policies,” says one source, a former deputy District Attorney.

They also pointed out that the way things are done right now does no one any favors, adding, “Gascón is so focused on justice for black and brown defendants, but the victims and their families are also black and brown. Where is the justice for them? We are making them victims of the criminal justice system yet again.”