Voters Reject Proposition 25, Preserving Cash Bail in California

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A bail bonds company across from the Hall of Justice in San Francisco on Oct. 28, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

California voters overwhelmingly rejected an effort to eliminate cash bail in the state. On Wednesday the Associated Press declared that the proposition failed.

The result is a dismissal of efforts by reformers who have pushed California to dramatically rethink the way it approaches criminal justice over the past decade.

Proposition 25 was a referendum on Senate Bill 10, a law passed by the California Legislature and signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown two years ago. That law eliminated cash bail as an option for securing release from jail after an arrest, and replaced it with a system that relies on risk assessments to advise judges, who would make the final call.

Under the law, most people arrested for misdemeanors in California would be automatically released before trial. Meanwhile, those accused of violent crimes would be held in jail without an option for release, and people arrested for less serious felonies would be able to make their case to a judge.

Because the bail industry gathered enough signatures to put the referendum on the ballot, the law was on hold until voters weighed in.

While law enforcement groups generally opposed Proposition 25, the bail measure also split some on the political left. Many progressive groups argued that, while they want to see the end of cash bail, the system set up by Proposition 25 could lead to more people held in jail, not fewer.

Separately, voters rejected Proposition 20, which would have made it easier to put some people in jail for theft while making it harder for thousands of state prisoners to qualify for parole consideration. It also would have expanded DNA collection of people convicted of some misdemeanors.

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