San Francisco D.A. criticizes superior court for ending zero-bail policy amid pandemic

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin on Friday criticized 
San Francisco Superior Court for ending its policy of zero-bail amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, per a ruling last week at the California Judicial Council.

Last week, the council voted to end the zero-bail policy statewide 
and allow for individual counties to determine whether to continue with the policy. Counties like Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara have moved to continue the policy despite the council's decision.

The policy sets bail at zero for people accused of low-level  offenses in order to keep jail populations to a minimum.

According to Boudin, the superior court's decision to end the 
policy has the potential to put inmates at risk of getting COVID-19.

"We are disappointed with the Judicial Council and the San 
Francisco courts for moving away from an effective public health policy despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of people released on zero bail did not re-offend, and many were never even charged with a crime," Boudin said in a statement. "With the revocation of the zero-bail policy, many people will sit in jail even before seeing a judge -- putting them and everyone around them at risk."

"Social distancing is already challenging in a jail, but San 
Francisco jails have successfully avoided a major outbreak of COVID by listening to medical experts and keeping the jail population low," said Director of the Department of Public Health Jail Health Services Dr. Lisa Pratt. "The decision to revoke the zero-bail policy fails to prioritize the real public health concerns of a spread of the virus in jail and puts everyone who lives and works in jail -- as well as those who interact with them -- at higher risk of the virus."

According to SF Superior Court spokesman Ken Garcia, despite the ending of the zero-bail policy, the courts are already following guidelines set forth by a class action lawsuit that eliminated the money bail system, allowing for people to be released based on their level of risk rather than whether they can afford to pay bail.

"The San Francisco Superior Court is following the federal court 
guidelines set forth in the Buffin settlement. The District Attorney is aware of that," Garcia said in a statement.