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Should CA reform its cash bail system for low income defendants?

The Sheriff's Department Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles, California on January 30, 2015.
The Sheriff's Department Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles, California on January 30, 2015.

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A San Francisco case of a defendant with bail set at $350,000 is getting a lot of attention.

The defendant, 64-year-old Kenneth Humphrey, is accused of stealing a $5 bottle of cologne and has been detained since May because he cannot make bail. Last month, this prompted a state appeals court to order a new bail hearing for Humphrey, setting off a new standard for the state.

In the current system, bail amounts are determined by a chart, not the defendant’s income. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced today that he will not appeal a state appellate court’s ruling in the case and, in a Sacramento news conference, said that setting high bail for low income defendants perpetuates a poverty cycle. Rather than continue with the traditional system, Becerra advocates for setting bail into fixed amounts depending on the defendant’s charges and record.

But Los Angeles County District Attorney Eric Siddall has pointed out that Humphrey had four prior robbery offenses, and many critics of bail reform argue that bail has already been set to match the defendant’s potential threat to the public. So what do you think about the suggested change? Should a person’s income be considered when setting bail?


Jeff Adachi, the public defender of San Francisco

Eric Siddall, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney; vice president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, a collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for Los Angeles County