Fact check: Does CA Prop 25 replace bail with an algorithm?

Home / Fact check: Does CA Prop 25 replace bail with an algorithm?

Claim: “Prop. 25 ends our right to put up bail for anyone, even though they may have been racially profiled. Prop. 25 replaces bail with computer algorithms. Academic studies show that these algorithms are biased. Some call them black boxes. And Prop. 25’s new bureaucracy delays justice for innocent people stuck in jail. The NAACP asks you to vote no on Proposition 25,” California NAACP head Alice Huffman said in a campaign ad for No on Proposition 25.

Rating: Misleading.

Details: Huffman is correct that Proposition 25 ends bail in the state of California, but is misleading when she says that it replaces bail with a computer algorithm.

While the pre-trial risk assessment model that weighs whether a person is at risk to re-offend or fail to appear before the court does use computer algorithms, “judicial officers remain the final authority in making pretrial release or detention decisions,” according to the Judicial Branch of California.

That means that while judges may rely on algorithm-assisted risk assessment models and recommendations, they have the power to override those recommendations.

Under Proposition 25, most people apprehended for misdemeanor crimes will be cited and released within 12 hours. For more serious crimes, a pretrial assessment will be conducted within 24 hours of booking, according to the Judicial Branch. Eligible low- and medium-risk individuals then will be released from custody, while others will be held until arraignment.

At arraignment, the accused must be released from custody unless the prosecutor files a motion for preventive detention. At that point, a judge decides whether to detain the person until a hearing can be held.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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