By Anne Price, President
Our criminal justice system is broken. Reforming, fixing or better yet reimagining how we think about safety and justice in America is imperative in our work toward racial and economic justice. All across the country, grassroots organizations led by communities of color, women, advocates and progressive policymakers are shedding light on how our current system perpetuates racial and economic inequities, and are joining campaigns to eradicate fines and fees, mandatory sentencing requirements and money bail.
What is becoming increasingly evident, is that we must ground our work in a proactive vision of what safety, justice, and liberation means to us versus focusing on ending a specific practice. This week’s legislation to end money bail in California is a prime example of this need.
A few days ago, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 10 (SB10) to end the heinous system of money bail in California. While this seems like a great win, the legislation actually replaces money bail with racially bias risk assessments and a subjective evaluation process giving too much power to the discretion of judges and prosecutors, who studies show are prone to implicit racial bias. We’ve effectively replaced one terrible practice with yet another one that will continue to harm Black and Brown communities. For more on the problems with Senate Bill 10, read our Director of Policy and Research Jacob Denney’s piece on this matter.
If legislators had the goal to end racial discrimination in our criminal justice system instead of a narrow focus on ending cash bail, perhaps the outcome would have been different. We as advocates for racial and economic justice have to create a proactive agenda and vision grounded in the values, lived experiences, and dreams of the communities we are working for.