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San Francisco will no longer ask for cash bail in criminal cases

San Francisco — San Francisco's top prosecutor announced his office will no longer ask for cash bail as a condition for defendants' pretrial release, fulfilling one of his key campaign promises. District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who took office two weeks ago, said Wednesday prosecutors will use a "risk-based system" and weigh whether a defendant might flee or pose a threat to public safety. 

The former public defender has often said the cash bail system unfairly affects indigent defendants and people of color, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"For years I've been fighting to end this discriminatory and unsafe approach to pretrial detention," Boudin said in a statement. "From this point forward, pretrial detention will be based on public safety, not on wealth."

The child of incarcerated parents, Boudin's policy goes a step further than his predecessor, George Gascón, who scaled back requests for cash bail by introducing an algorithmic risk assessment tool in 2016. The district attorney's office on Wednesday said this tool "has allowed prosecutors and judges to preserve the constitutional protection of presumed innocence, while maintaining public safety through objective data."

Disparities in cash bail requirements in San Francisco have resulted in African American defendants paying an average of $120 per year for pretrial release compared to $10 for white defendants, according to the district attorney's office. Officials said this kind of inequality has led to a transfer of wealth in communities of color to private industry.

San Francisco's police union criticized Boudin's decision.

"Mr. Boudin is in the process of building the largest criminal justice revolving door imaginable, and San Franciscans will pay a heavy price for it," said Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association. "Relying solely on an arbitrary math equation regarding who remains in custody and who gets out early will endanger residents and police officers but it sure will make career criminals and gang members happy."

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