Bay City News

Santa Clara County Supervisors Unanimously Approve Bail Reform

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a set bail reform recommendations.

The board passed six recommendations from a final Bail and Release Work Group consensus report that will eventually offer low-income, low-risk and non-violent offenders in Santa Clara County an opportunity to leave jail while waiting for trial.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez said the goal of the recommendations is to make sure people who commit low-level crimes and can't afford bail have a chance to leave jail while awaiting trial, with the goal of ensuring public safety at the same time.

All of the final judgments for release will still be left up to a judge.

The work group has been discussing the six recommendations for two years, Chavez said.

Among the more noteworthy recommendations passed is one to fund bail for low-income inmates from a community-based fund. Chavez said she considers it groundbreaking.

"It's passed, and it's pretty phenomenal. It's a very different approach. We'll be the first in the state to do this," she said.

The next step for the community bail fund is for a request for proposals from nonprofit groups in the county to operate the fund. The county expects to have the program running by October 2018, if all goes as planned.

According to Chavez, the work group's focus in crafting the recommendations was to maintain public safety while keeping violent offenders in jail and keeping those who aren't considered violent out.

Other recommendations were: having low-risk inmates who can't afford bail be released on electronic surveillance; a community release project where community-based organizations will monitor defendants released before trial; and a program to collect and share data on the performance of suspects released on bail bonds without pretrial supervision.

According to Chavez, an estimated 55,000 people are processed into the county jail each year, which houses an average of 4,000 inmates in one night, she said. Chavez estimated that the cost for an inmate to spend the night at the jail is somewhere between $120 and $190.

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