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San Francisco Is Doing Away With Cash Bail. We Take A Look At The Alternatives.

Bail Bonds Billboard
Bail Bonds Billboard
Thomas Hawk/Flickr Creative Commons

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Fulfilling a promise he made on the campaign trail, San Francisco’s new district attorney Chesa Boudin has announced he’ll be doing away with cash bail as a condition for pre-trial release. 

San Francisco will implement a risk-based system that will consider if a defendant might be dangerous or is likely to run away. Bail reform advocates have lauded the move and have long argued that the cash bail system puts low income and people of color at a disadvantage. Certain law enforcement voices, including the San Francisco police union, have opposed the decision, citing public safety as a concern. 

Meanwhile, controversy has roiled New York’s bail reform law. How is San Francisco’s system different?

We take a closer look at the pros and cons of eliminating cash bail, as well as the landscape of alternatives. 


Lara Bazelon, professor of law and director of the Racial Justice Clinic and Criminal Juvenile Justice Clinic at the University of San Francisco School of Law; she tweets @larabazelon

Eugene O’Donnell, lecturer in law, police science and criminal justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, he is a former NYPD officer and prosecutor with the Brooklyn and Queens District Attorney’s Offices