Friday, October 14, 2016

[San Mateo] County explores alternate bail practices

San Mateo County’s Probation Department is exploring alternate bail practices following a report that stated the tab to house inmates in county jails was a “burdensome” $45 million annually.
The San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury issued a report in July that revealed that more than half of the county’s unconvicted inmates are stuck in jail because they cannot afford bail.
The report recommended the Probation Department evaluate and recommend various alternatives to pretrial incarceration, including but not limited to evidence-based risk-assessment tools and electronic monitoring.
County Manager John Maltbie responded to the report last week in a letter to the grand jury indicating the recommendation has not been implemented but will be implemented in the future.
The Probation Department is currently working with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to implement a “Public Safety Assessment” pretrial tool.
Currently, only about 10 percent of courts use evidence-based risk-assessment instruments to help them decide whether to release, supervise or detain defendants, according to the Arnold Foundation. To address the issue, the foundation developed the Public Safety Assessment, PSA, a pretrial risk-assessment tool designed to assist judges in making release and detention determinations.
The PSA was created using a database of over 1.5 million cases drawn from more than 300 U.S. jurisdictions. The foundation analyzed the data to identify the factors that are the best predictors of whether a defendant will commit a new crime, commit a new violent crime or fail to return to court.
Santa Cruz County is currently moving toward adopting the tool, according to a Maltbie report to the Board of Supervisors.
The Probation Department is also exploring options of implementing electronic monitoring for the pretrial population, according to Maltbie’s report.
The tab to house the 600 or so inmates who have not posted bail cost county taxpayers $45 million a year, according to the grand jury report titled “Innocent until Proven Guilty.”
Technology, according to the report, can save money and be far less disruptive for the accused and their families.
“Incarcerating people solely because they cannot afford bail is inconsistent with the fundamental principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’” according to the report.
Many counties in California are already using technology as an alternative to bail.
It costs about $75,000 to house each inmate in jail annually.
Those who cannot afford bail are incarcerated in county jail until the conclusion of their cases or until they find the money to post bail.
Using devices such as electronic monitors, however, cost up to $26 a day compared to the $206 a day it cost to house an inmate in county jail, according to the civil grand jury report.
In fiscal year 2014-15, the county spent $64.6 million to run the men’s and women’s jails. About 67 percent of inmates were unsentenced and 53 percent of the unsentenced inmates were eligible for bail but remained in jail because the could not afford bail, according to the civil grand jury.
The civil grand jury is an independent investigative body comprised of 19 county residents to act as a “watchdog for citizens.”
October 11, 2016
The Daily Journal
By Journal staff

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