Fixing California’s Bail System

fixing california bail system

From left: Elizabeth Robinson, 57, Theresa Jeter, 60, and Esi Mathis, 63, chat during a gathering with the Essie Justice Group at St. Elmo Village in Los Angeles. (Christina House/LA Times)

This group is putting women at the center of the battle to fix California’s bail system

As a public defender in New York City, Gina Clayton realized the cash bail system used in most state courts across the country was placing a heavy burden on women. The grandmothers and mothers who visited her office bailed relatives out so often that they knew several bond agents by name.

Often the women navigated complicated contracts and paid high fees alone, she said. Many ended up swimming in debt. Some lost their homes.

Essie Justice Group…has been one of several civil rights and advocacy nonprofits that have pushed a hotly debated state legislative package to overhaul how courts grant offenders bail before trial in California.

Frustrated with the daily churn of cases, she moved back to her hometown, Los Angeles, four years ago. She had a mission.

“I wanted to know what mass incarceration was doing to women in this country,” Clayton, 34, recalled at her grandmother’s home in Venice. And she wanted to find a more meaningful way to help, she said.

So she founded the Essie Justice Group, a support network for women whose loved ones are in prison. The organization has been one of several civil rights and advocacy nonprofits that have pushed a hotly debated state legislative package to overhaul how courts grant offenders bail before trial in California. After one those bills stalled in the Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday delayed action on a second, identical bill until next year, but pledged to continue working on the issue with members from all three branches of government.

Until then, at group sessions in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, the nonprofit is continuing to train its members to share their personal experiences with incarceration and bail. They hope to persuade lawmakers to oppose a cash bail system they say adversely and disproportionately affects black women and Latinas….Read More Here

Jasmine Ulloa
Los Angeles Times