Don’t abandon the bail system

More than a few people charged with crimes complain about the bail system. Coming up with several thousand dollars — sometimes hundreds of thousands — to gain release from jail while awaiting trial is an unreasonable burden, they say.

Leave it to the Californians to come up with a dramatic plan to eliminate the complaint: doing away entirely with the bail system.

A bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown will replace the bail system with something new. Instead of being told how much they must come up with to be released, defendants in California will go through a risk-assessment process. It will be designed to determine which defendants can be trusted not to skip town and thus, can be released on their own recognizance. Presumably, those designated as bad risks will be told to make themselves comfortable in their cells.

Note that we wrote the risk-assessment system “will” be designed to accomplish that end. Again, leave it to the Californians to jump into a major change without thinking it through.

The risk of losing lots of money by failing to show up for trial is a powerful incentive. Officials in our states should not even think about abandoning it.


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