The judicial authorities of California put pressure on people who can not pay their bail because of their scarcity of resources, including thousands of Hispanics, to plead guilty in order to be released, the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported today.
“A large number of Latinos cannot pay the high bail imposed and are at risk of getting stuck in jail and pleading guilty, when they should not do it,” John Raphling, HRW researcher and author of the study, told Efe.
The deal with fast bail bonds
The report, entitled “Without a desire for justice: how pretrial detention and the bail system in California unfairly punishes people with low incomes,” found that the system of bail and preventive incarceration does not provide fair alternatives for detainees to fight their cases in freedom.
The system offers three options. The fastest and most effective way that a detainee can get out of jail is to post bail. However, California has one of the highest bail rates in the country, and in many cases five times the number of other states.
A person who is arrested and held in jail can be able to get released before their trials through a bail bond. You can go to BondCliff for bail bonds.
The second is to remain in detention, but for a minor offense, they may be imprisoned for up to 30 days before coming before the judge.
Faced with the expectation of going to jail and not knowing when they can leave, many detainees opt for the third option and reach an agreement to plead guilty, even if they are innocent. The prosecutors’ offer saves them time in jail, especially those arrested for non-serious crimes.
“Prosecutors and judges are taking advantage of the system and the system benefits them because they can process cases faster,” Raphling said.
The system would be so flawed that innocent people are incarcerated unnecessarily for long periods. About 63% of prisoners in California county jails have not been sentenced, and in many cases, they were not even charged.
Daniel Soto lived this nightmare. The young man, aged 18, was arrested on charges of assault in a confrontation where he was stabbed. The court imposed bail of $ 30,000. Soto’s family could not pay bail and the Latino spent almost two months in jail until the judge dismissed the case.
In another case, the prosecution offered a detainee to plead guilty to freedom, despite the fact that the defense obtained a video showing the defendant’s innocence. Given the need to reunite with his family, the man accepted the guilt and put a serious crime in his criminal record.
“Between 2011 and 2015, 1,451,441 people were arrested and detained by the police for serious crimes, of which almost half a million were in prison, although they were finally found not guilty, their cases were dismissed or the evidence was so unconvincing that prosecutors never filed charges, “the study indicates.
This problem greatly affects immigrants, especially the undocumented who may lose the option to legalize their status for not fighting their cases in court.
“No one told me that if I pleaded guilty that would affect me in my immigration case,” said Efe Jose H, a Salvadoran man who is struggling to reopen his case in a criminal court to have charges of domestic violence overturned.
“I had been in jail for two weeks and they told me it was better to say that I was guilty and that I was going out with ‘probation’, and that’s what I did,” he explained.
The study found that most people who were arrested on minor or non-violent charges pleaded guilty and managed to obtain their release before the date set for their first appearance in court.
For Víctor Nieblas, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), under the new policies of the Trump administration, any undocumented person who pleads guilty to a misdemeanor is now within the priorities of Immigration to be deported.
“Before pleading guilty to any crime you have to tell your lawyer that you do not have documents,” advised Nieblas.
According to Raphling, the problem with the system of bonds and preventive incarceration is not exclusive to California and there are similar cases in the rest of the country, although the Golden State is where this situation is most notorious and where millions of dollars of public funds are wasted. by holding people who are presumed innocent in prisons.
Together with the study, HRW delivered a series of recommendations to change the system and establish a procedure where the detainee can be summoned and his case evaluated individually and he can recover his freedom without bail.
Currently in California there are two bills, SB 10 and AB 42, which contemplate modifying the bond system and creating preliminary hearings for detainees.
“With this system of preventive detention, poor people are punished regardless of whether they are guilty or not, if we value justice and fairness, then we must drive change,” Ralphing asked.