California ends $0 bail for nonviolent cases but delays vote on eviction moratorium

·3 min read
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People take part in an Alliance for Boys and Men of Color car rally in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, April 16, 2020. The protest was for Alameda County not releasing Santa Rita Jail inmates even after 27 have tested positive for COVID-19.

Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

  • The Judicial Council of California announced Monday that it will be voting on whether to lift emergency measures adopted to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

  • On Wednesday, June 10, the Judicial Council of California voted to end $0 bail for both non-violent cases.

  • In April, the Judicial Council, a statewide policy-making body, imposed a moratorium on most evictions and set bail at $0 for nearly all misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, with an exception for looting.

  • The Judicial Council said that, with California beginning to reopen, it should be left to counties and the state legislature to decide what measures are appropriate.

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California authorities voted Wednesday to end the statewide policy of $0 bail for most nonviolent offenses, citing progress in the fight against COVID-19, but postponed a decision on extending the moratorium on evictions.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit California, the Judicial Council — a policy-making body chaired by the chief justice of the state's Supreme Court — announced a freeze on most evictions, a move that was denounced by the California Apartment Association, a trade group for landlords. Many local jurisdictions have imposed imposed their own, separate moratoriums on commercial and residential evictions.

Alarmed by the prospect of widespread infection among the incarcerated, Judicial Council also set bail at $0 for misdemeanors and most non-violent felonies, with an exception for alleged "looting," in an effort to reduce jail populations.

According to John's Hopkins University, there have been more than 133,000 cases in California, with more than 4,600 deaths.

On Wednesday, the could voted 17-2 to end $0 bail, effective June 20. But it delayed a vote on evictions following what Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye described as "discussions with the governor, legislative leaders, and Judicial Council members."

Earlier, the group had that signalled the eviction moratorium would come to an end as well.

"The Judicial Council acted quickly to safely reduce jail populations and halt evictions and foreclosures during an unprecedented global health crisis," Martin Hoshino, administrative director of the Judicial Council, said in the June 8 news release. "These rules achieved their goals — to reduce harm, save lives, and help 'flatten the curve' of the pandemic."

More than 20,000 people have been spared pre-trial detention thus far, the release noted. And, "Despite being in uncharted territory, crime rates stayed at historic lows, and the vast majority of people released on the COVID-19 bail schedule did not reoffend," Justice Marsha Slough said.

Local jurisdictions will still be able to set zero-cost bail if they consider it necessary. Indeed, it appears to be needed in the state's most populous county, home to one of the world's largest jail system.

In the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles, "health officials are detecting an uptick in disease transmission," the Los Angeles Times reported Monday, following the reopening of hair salons and in-person dining last month.

Meanwhile, over 2,500 people in the Los Angeles jail system have COVID-19, according to the county Sheriff's Department, or roughly a third of those who have been tested.

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