Open Letter to Governor Brown

Open Letter

Governor Jerry Brown


Nearly 40 years ago, you decried the state of our criminal justice system, acknowledging that “thousands & thousands of people languish in the jails of this state even though they have been convicted of no crime.” You now face a decision, to sign into law a bill that will create thousands more.

As your time as California’s Governor winds down, it is shocking to us that one of the decisions you may allow yourself to be remembered for is the signing of a bill that was rushed through the legislature in the highly undemocratic and crude fashion that SB10 was. SB10 is NOT bail reform, and we believe that you understand this. It is the transition from one bad system to another. California has for far too long strode confidently among its peers calling itself a progressive state, while simultaneously locking up more people than anywhere else on the planet. To sign a bill that carries this crisis into another generation, on the shoulders of fallible and biased technology and the consolidation of power into the hands of law enforcement, is a step so far in the wrong direction that it throws much about your legacy into question.  

We all want to wake up in a California free of the exploitive and parasitic system of cash bail, but if you sign SB10, this time next year we will be waking up to the nightmare of increased detention and family separation. How could we allow ourselves to sacrifice due process in ANY effort to reform the bail system? The presumption of innocence is not an aspirational ideal, it is a constitutional mandate that implores you to veto SB10 today. No amount of euphemisms used for dehumanizing and caging people through algorithms will shield this state from the reality that SB10 will keep California in firm hold of the dubious distinction of being the greatest jailer in the world.

It appeared that political gamesmanship was placed over human impact when the rules were suspended in order to accelerate SB10 through both houses, and all while shamelessly being celebrated as progressive reform. As Californians, this is not what we expect from you. Veto SB10, allow for a democratic process around bail reform to be rebuilt, and read below to fully understand how devastating this piece of legislation will be:

1. SB10 replaces money bail with a system of “preventive detention,” defined as pretrial incarceration without possibility of release;

2. Gives judges nearly open-ended discretion to preventively detain based on completely subjective legal standards;

3. Allows for any and all arrestees to be detained for almost TWO WEEKS after arrest prior to any bail hearing at the discretion of prosecutors. There will be no way out of jail at all for people for several days prior to arraignment or for six “court days” after arraignment;

4. Provides detention hearings with little procedural protections for people accuse of crime, including allowing judges to incarcerate based on a prosecutor’s hearsay statement, a police report or a risk assessment score;

5. Requires nearly everyone to submit to a predictive risk assessment that labels them high, middle or low risk based on a statistical prediction of what they might do in the future;

6. Uses these risk assessment scores to determine who is eligible for immediate release or incarceration, and to influence the judges’ ultimate decisions;

7. Provides no meaningful regulation to combat or limit the racial and economic class biases that are inherent in these risk assessment tools;

8. Places control of the scoring system of the risk assessment tools entirely in the hands of the judiciary, thus allowing judges to make the high risk category as large or small as they desire in order to justify whatever rate of pretrial incarceration they choose;

9. Allows local jurisdictions to carve out nearly unlimited categories of people who will be ineligible for release;

10. Puts probation departments, whose main function is monitoring and supervision, in charge of assessing risk and recommending incarceration, release and conditions of release;

11. Allows police and prosecutors to have undue influence over the pretrial services recommendations for release, incarceration or supervision;

12. Keeps immigrants (lawful permanent residents and undocumented) accused but not convicted of crimes, in custody longer and without the option of bailing out of jail quickly, exposing them to detection by ICE and subsequent deportation.

13. Excludes community representatives and organizations, civil rights and racial/economic justice organization, formerly incarcerated people, defense attorney and public defenders, and anyone who isn’t a judge or law enforcement official from any role in implementation or oversight of this new scheme;

14. Costs taxpayers tremendous amounts of money, all going to courts and probation department, and away from community needs like housing and schools;

15. Has no expectation or intention of lowering rates of pretrial incarceration; but it will have great  potential to increase pretrial incarceration.


Californians United for a Responsible Budget, California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice, Essie Justice Group, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, Immigrant Family Defense Fund, Indivisible CA: StateStrong, JusticeLA, JustLeadershipUSA, Los Angeles Community Action Network, National Council of Jewish Women (Los Angeles), Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, San Francisco Public Defenders, Silicon Valley DeBug, SURJ Bay Area, The Bail Project & The Youth Justice Coalition.

In solidarity with organizations opposing SB10:

American Civil Liberties Union
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA
Asian Law Caucus
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Black and Pink
Brooklyn Bail Fund
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
California Partnership
Centro Legal de la Raza
Chicago Community Bail Fund
Civil Rights Corps
Color of Change
Colorado Freedom Fund
Critical Resistance
Denver Justice Project
Dignity and Power Now
End Solitary Santa Cruz County
Equal Justice Under Law
Fair Chance Project
Ground Garme LA
Human Rights Watch
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Impact Fund
Inland Congregation United for Change
Insight Center for Community Economic Development
Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Media Mobilizing Project
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Organization for Women (Hollywood)
Pangea Legal Services
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Reform CA Riverside Temple Beth El
Richmond Community Bail Fund
Riverside All of Us or None
Stonewall Democratic Club
Stop LAPD Spying
The California Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
The National Council of Jewish Women | Los Angeles
Trans Latina Coalition
White People for Black Lives
Young Women’s Freedom Center
YWCA San Francisco & Marin
YWCA Silicon Valley

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