By Michael J. Whitlock
November 5, 2020
It’s been a long hard slog these past two years as the bail industry worked to overturn SB10, enacted legislation that if put into effect, would have eliminated the use of bail in California. That effort was rewarded on Election Day when more than 6 million Californians voted no on Prop 25, the referendum to overturn SB10.
Californians for Safer Communities was the engine behind Prop 25. All in, more than 10 million dollars was spent by the bail industry to preserve the right to bail in California. That seems like and is a lot of money but well short of the war chest held by those in favor of Prop 25. Ultimately, it was the people who were the real currency in this fight. They rejected the unconstitutional expansion of preventative detention, computer algorithms and letting offenders walk out of jail without posting bail.
I received a lot of calls and text messages yesterday from bail agents across California offering thanks and appreciation for this accomplishment. A win that will keep them in business and able to continue to support their families. I could sense the relief in their voice and in their words. I made sure to inform them it was a broad coalition of surety companies, large retailers, bail agents and support from around the country that made this happen. While the coalition did not have the financial support of all the surety companies doing business in California, we played with the team we had and as it turns out, it was enough. You are always going to have those who want to drive in the draft of the efforts of others and then enjoy the rewards and benefits of victory; accept it and move on.
What now? SB10 passed by the thinnest of margins in 2018, two years later the people of California have spoken on the issue, hopefully, the state legislature will respect their wishes and not continue to press the issue of eliminating the use bail. Other states entertaining overreaching bail reform may now look to California and see that there can be a bridge too far and opt for more reasonable and thoughtful reforms. One pragmatic reform would be to simply let those who can post bail, post bail, and provide a bail hearing to anyone remaining in custody after 48-72 hours. Sometimes the best solution is the most obvious solution.
I liken this victory with Prop 25 to finally locating and apprehending a fugitive (the recovery agent, not me personally) on a very large bond forfeiture. This getting done only after having spent a tremendous amount of time, effort, money and don’t forget the stress, to see the fugitive apprehended and back in custody before the deadline. Only a bail agent knows the feeling of that kind relief. Winning Prop 25 was like that.