San Francisco prosecutors will no longer ask judges for cash bail as a condition for the pretrial detention of defendants, the District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.
The announcement comes just weeks after District Attorney Chesa Boudin took office, delivering on his promise to end cash bail.
Instead, whether defendants will have to remain incarcerated will now be based on risk to public safety rather than how much money they can collect to pay bail.
"For years I've been fighting to end this discriminatory and unsafe approach to pretrial detention," Boudin said in a statement. "From this point forward, pretrial detention will be based on public safety, not on wealth."
According to Boudin's office, the move could save taxpayers money, as taxpayers nationwide spend about $38 million daily to jail people awaiting trial.
The organization Human Rights Watch said pretrial release for people who don't pose a threat to public safety results in a more fair court system and doesn't result in more crime of missed court dates.
"For too long, prosecutors have used money bail and pretrial incarceration as leverage to pressure people to plead guilty regardless of actual guilt. Boudin's policy favoring pretrial release is a welcome change and will build the credibility of our courts," said John Raphling, Human Rights Watch senior researcher.
Boudin's office said the elimination of cash bail will have a positive impact on the city's low-income communities and communities of color. In San Francisco, African Americans pay more than $120 per capita per year in non-refundable bail fees compared to $10 per capita per year for white residents.
Back in 2016, former District Attorney George Gascon introduced an algorithmic risk assessment tool to move the court toward a system based on risk and not monetary bail. The tool has helped prosecutors make more equitable decisions during the pretrial phase, preserving the constitutional protection of presumed innocence, city prosecutors said.
Although former Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 10 into law back in 2018, eliminating cash bail statewide, a referendum for the November 2020 ballot to overturn the law has suspended it.