SF looking to reform bail system, says discriminates against poor

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Bail, the "get out of jail card" is everyone's constitutional right. But is it fair to everyone?

A report from the San Francisco City Treasurers office shows huge inequities in the county's bail system - a system that's weighted against the poor.

Lillyana Lonzanida says it's not. Her brother was bailed out by his girlfriend's family.

"They ended up putting up their house and their car, just to get my brother out," she said.

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To get out of jail before trial, those arrested can pay the entire bail. They'll get it back if they make the court hearing. If you can't make the full amount, you can pay a percentage, normally ten percent, to a bail agent, which is non-refundable.

A report released by the city treasurer says San Franciscans are paying an average of $10 to $15 million dollars a year in nonrefundable bail fees.

"This is just wrong. Money should not be a determining factor, how big your bank account is, in whether or not you get out of jail," said Anne Stuhldreher with the San Francisco Treasurer's Office.

Geri Campana is a longtime bail agent. She agrees bail should be reformed but says there are many other options.

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"Proposition 47 dropped many felonies to misdemeanors, which allows people to be cited and released, thefts under $900 get cited and released," she said.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen wants to set up a revolving bail fund, which would allow low income families to borrow money for bail.

"Get that money back when their loved ones show up at the court hearings or when charges are dismissed," recommended Ronen.

She is introducing a resolution urging San Francisco's judges to lower bail in the county which is now the highest in the state.
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