Advocates against mass incarceration said they have bailed three Black mothers out of a Los Angeles detention facility as part of a day of action that included a statewide petition with racial justice organization Color of Change.
Essie Justice Group said Saturday the campaign was calling on California judges to “stop abusing their discretion to disproportionately keep Black people in jail on astronomically high bail amounts.”
That charge involves some judges’ alleged attempts to circumvent a recent California Supreme Court decision that judges must consider ability to pay when setting bail.
“Hundreds of thousands of people — mostly Black and Brown — remain incarcerated pretrial for no other reason than they cannot afford to pay bail — often facing trauma and abuse inside the over 3,000 jails across the country,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell said. “The [California] Supreme Court found that it is unconstitutional to detain a person because they cannot afford their bail amount. We must demand and expect that the courts treat each individual with the care and concern they deserve, acknowledging that they are someone’s child, someone’s parent, someone’s loved one and a part of our community.”
Essie Justice Group said more than $800,000 was raised for this year’s bailout, but was only able to free three Black mothers “due to California’s bail prices being 10 times the national average.”
“Essie Justice Group worked with public defenders offices across the state to identify Black mothers and caregivers to bail out of jail. We found that judges have set bail amounts on low-income and working class women to the tune of two hundred thousand dollars all the way to one million dollars — all during a life-threatening pandemic,” said Gina Clayton-Johnson, founder and executive director of Essie Justice Group. “As an organization of women with incarcerated loved ones, we know from experience that it is Black women who too frequently pay the cost of our unjust bail system. With the recent Humphrey decision, we are demanding that judges follow the law and set the bail at an amount that people can afford to pay.”
Ricardo Garcia, L.A. County public defender, said his colleagues “are on the front lines of our criminal justice system and, every day, attorneys in my office bear witness to systemic racism that permeates our pretrial system and disproportionately devastates Black and Brown communities.
“Even though each of our clients is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, bail is routinely set at an amount that our clients can’t afford, meaning that far too many of them are forced to sit in a jail cell as they await trial,” he continued. “The situation has only become more grave during COVID-19, both because exposure to the disease is so much higher in jails but also because the delays and court closures have meant that people are in jail pretrial longer than ever.”