Assemblymember Rob Bonta addressing the
Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday.

Legislation that would greatly reform the state’s money bail system passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday. The bill, authored by East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta, would limit those arrested from posting bail as a condition of their release. Assembly Bill 42 also seeks to shift determination of an offender’s risk to the public to pre-trial services.

“It’s a win, win, win,” Bonta told the committee. “It provides more fairness and justice to individuals who will no longer be discriminated against simply for being poor.” The bill also aims to reduce exorbitant costs for jailing offenders who could otherwise be released while awaiting legal proceedings, said Bonta.

The committee approved the bill, 5-1. A state senate bill authored by Los Angeles state Sen. Bob Hertzberg mirrors Bonta’s assembly bill.

Ato Walker, a San Jose resident who was previously arrested, testified Tuesday night about being held on bail initially set at $165,000. Walker said the judge and prosecutor assumed he was a risk to be released based on his race. Walker is African American.

“Money bail is a problem because it targets poor people,” he said. “It targets people of color and puts us in a position where we cannot fight our cases.”

Walker also called out Duane Chapman, the Hawaii bail bondsman and star of the television show, “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” who was in attendance on behalf of bail bond companies. Walker said Chapman was representing special interests that “profit from the misery of poor people, all the falsely-accused and all the folks that didn’t have the opportunity to have their story told correctly.”

After the hearing, Chapman told reporters, according to the Sacramento Bee, “Poor people don’t break the law. It’s not the poor man that runs. He has no money to run.”

Opponents say the bill violates the state constitution and provides no guidance for counties to implement, if signed into law. Others said the bill would put small bail bond companies out of business.

Bonta’s bid for bail reform is not his only assault this legislative session on the state prison industry. A bill to phase-out state contracts with private for-profit prison operators by 2018 was approved by the same Assembly Public Safety Committee earlier this month.