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‘Zero-bail’ reportedly working ‘as intended’


New report from LA County Superior Court

Los Angeles County's “zero-bail” system, which was implemented Oct. 1 amid concerns from some law enforcement and elected officials, has worked “exactly the way it was intended'' and has not decreased public safety, Superior Court officials insisted this week as they released data on the system's first three weeks of operation.

Most notably, the report compiled by the court found that less than 3% of people who have been booked on suspicion of a crime were subsequently re-arrested and booked again during the first three weeks of the Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols, or PARP, system.

“The preliminary PARP Report released today demonstrates the undeniable public safety benefits of utilizing individualized risk determinations to assess conditions of release, as opposed to basing conditions of release solely on an arrested individual's ability to pay traditional money bail,'' Presiding Judge Samantha P. Jessner said in a statement.

“This new system is working exactly the way it was intended–the vast majority of those determined by a magistrate to be a significant risk to public and victim safety, or a significant flight risk, are being temporarily held in jail prior to arraignment, while the vast majority of those who pose little risk to public or victim safety and are likely to return to court are being released with non-financial conditions.

“Under the previous money bail system, these same high-risk individuals would be able to buy their release from jail if they had access to money, and the low-risk individuals would remain in jail for days, weeks, months, or even years if they did not have access to money to purchase their release.''

The zero-bail system largely eliminates the existing cash bail system for all but the most serious of crimes. Most people arrested on suspicion of non-violent or non-serious offenses are either cited and released in the field or booked and released at a police or sheriff's station with orders to appear in court on a specific date for arraignment once they are actually charged with a crime.

Arrestees who are believed to present a heightened threat to the public or be a flight risk are referred to a magistrate judge, who reviews the case and determines whether the person should be held in custody pending arraignment or released under non-financial restrictions such as electronic monitoring.

Once a person is charged and appears in court for arraignment, a judge could change or revoke the defendant's release conditions.

Some law enforcement officials, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna, expressed concern about the system before it took effect, saying it would reduce public confidence in the justice system by quickly releasing people arrested for a variety of offenses.

More than a dozen Southland cities have filed a lawsuit seeking to overthrow the zero-bail system, saying it would be detrimental to public safety.

Superior Court officials on Monday, however, said the arrest data from the program's first three weeks belies those concerns. Jessner called claims that the system is harmful to public safety misinformation and “dangerous and negligent rhetoric.''