Continuing Justice Reform Push, LA County to Develop Alternatives to Money Bail

Across the country, money bail offers low-income defendants an impossible choice: sit in jail while your case slowly moves through the court system, pay a nonrefundable fee to a for-profit bail bonds company, or plead guilty and possess a criminal record that can impact your employment, housing, and more. In another step forward in eliminating inequities in the criminal justice system, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, that directs County Departments to work with community advocates and stakeholders to implement bail reform efforts and expand pre-plea diversion programs.


“I am committed to shifting LA County’s focus on punishment and incarceration to rehabilitation and diversion, which will help combat inherent inequities in our criminal justice system,” said Supervisor Solis. “By expanding the use of pretrial services that have been proven to significantly improve court appearance rates, such as texted court reminders, transportation, and child care, we can reduce the use of money bail and therefore the incarceration of people who have not been convicted. As we’ve seen in other jurisdictions that have already taken the positive step to eliminate money bail for nonviolent defendants, a modern criminal justice system should never consider how much money a defendant has. In LA County, we will abolish this poverty penalty.”


“I thank Supervisor Solis for inviting me to co-author today’s motion,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “Money bail has a serious and disproportionate impact on the poor, who are least likely to be able to pay for their freedom. Men and women who remain in jail only because they don’t have the money for bail stand in danger of losing their job and their home while they spend months in jail awaiting trial. This motion will jumpstart our efforts to create a system that is fair for everyone while continuing to preserve public safety.”


Today’s action directs County Departments to work with community advocates and stakeholders, as well as legal and civil rights organizations, to develop recommendations to fully implement mental health diversion and prior LA County bail reform motions and increase the use of the County’s pre-plea diversion programs.


This working group, which will report back to the Board of Supervisors in 90 days, will also (1) develop recommendations to safely reduce pre-trial detention with alternatives to incarceration or cash bail; (2) build models based on best practices for pre-arraignment and pretrial assessments, service linkages, court date reminders, transportation, child care, and other supportive services; and (3) create a plan for evaluating metrics to determine the successes of the pilot programs. LA County will also encourage the State of California to provide additional funding to support these comprehensive pretrial reform efforts.