BASF Criminal Justice Task Force Urges San Francisco Courts to Restore ‘Zero Bail’ As COVID-19 Cases in Jails Rise
July 14, 2020, San Francisco—The Bar Association of San Francisco's Criminal Justice Taskforce (CJTF), along with the San Francisco District Attorney, San Francisco Public Defender, San Francisco Pretrial, and Jail Health Services, sent a joint letter to Presiding Judge Wong, urging the San Francisco Superior Court "in the strongest possible terms" to restore Zero Bail.
Zero Bail refers to the emergency bail schedule implemented by the California Judicial Council in April, aimed at reducing jail populations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in overcrowded jails. Several local jurisdictions have continued to use the zero bail schedule after the Judicial Council repealed the emergency schedule in June, allowing local courts to continue its use. On June 20, San Francisco Superior Court decided to terminate the emergency bail schedule.
Restoring Zero Bail is essential to public health and safety, urges the letter, as the danger posed by the coronavirus pandemic has not yet passed. Jails are especially dangerous vectors for transmission for incarcerated defendants, staff, and surrounding communities. Eight of the top ten coronavirus clusters around the country have been prisons and jails.
Incarceration during the coronavirus pandemic is also a racial justice issue. People of color are facing worse health outcomes and higher risk of death from coronavirus. In San Francisco, people of color—particularly Black people—are also overrepresented in jails. Elimination of Zero Bail perpetuates the racial disparities of both pretrial incarceration and the public health crisis.
BASF’s Criminal Justice Task Force (CJTF) members include prosecutors, defense attorneys, civil rights attorneys, law professors, the judiciary, members of law enforcement, and police oversight agencies. CJTF was formed five years ago in the wake of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, which drew nationwide attention to issues of fairness in the criminal justice system. Since then, taskforce members have worked to rewrite the police use-of-force policy, researched and advocated against the use of Tasers, weighed in on a statewide effort to reform the bail system, and helped shape anti-bias policing measures.
The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of attorneys, law students, and legal professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF enjoys the support of more than 7,500 individuals, law firms, corporate legal departments, and law schools. BASF provides a collective voice for public advocacy, advances professional growth and education, and attempts to elevate the standards of integrity, honor, and respect in the practice of law.