The Bail Project

The Bail Project is a national nonprofit organization that pays bail for people in need, reuniting families and restoring the presumption of innocence

The first national effort to provide funds to defendants for cash bail, has helped release more than 10,000 people from pretrial detention. Its work is part of a push across the United States to challenge cash bail, a system in which defendants are detained until their trials unless they pay a bond of hundreds or thousands of dollars as collateral for their return. Critics have condemned cash bail as fueling mass incarceration by robbing the poor of their presumption of innocence.

California has seen a wave of bail-related reform, though most efforts were localized. The new San Francisco district attorney is a former public defender who opposes cash bail. UCLA School of Law students help public defenders in Compton get defendants released on their own recognizance. The most prominent statewide measure, SB 10, would eliminate cash bail — but fail to free defendants without a judge’s agreement. It would also impose new, probation-like conditions, such as drug testing, electronic surveillance, and curfews, on defendants who remain unconvicted of any crime. Voters wil decide this via a referendum in November.

As SB 10 illustrates, not all bail reform efforts are equal. Indeed, some reforms even threaten to reproduce the injustices of cash bail by other means. In order to address and curb these missteps, The Bail Project recently released After Cash Bail, a report detailing how reforms can best introduce new systems that support genuine justice, like administrative court reforms and restorative justice initiatives.