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Pressure To Reform California's Bail System Ramps Up

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- California's bail system has been accused of discriminating against the poor, but now reform may be on the horizon.

Phil Telfeyan with Equal Justice Under Law said, "The elephant in the room is California operates two systems of justice. One for the rich and one for the poor."

Telfeyan's organization is suing San Francisco and Sacramento calling their bail systems unconstitutional. He testified before the state insurance commissioner Tuesday saying he's sick of seeing people wait in prison before trial simply because they can't afford to bail themselves out.

California Insurance Department Commissioner Dave Jones said, "We shouldn't have a system where your detention is based on your income. There are allegations that that's the system we have."

Commissioner Jones wants to hear from the public before taking a reform plan to the legislature.

Kpix 5 legal analyst and retired judge, Ladoris Cordell said, "California is behind in terms of bail reform, there are states utilizing a no bail system."

Cordell says reform is long overdue. She credits one movement in particular for bringing this conversation to the table.

"The Black Lives Matter movement is the first movement focused on the criminal justice system and what's wrong with it," she said.

Topo Podilla is a bail agent who calls the concept of eliminating cash bail, dangerous.

Podilla said, "We have to quit looking at the bail industry as the evil entity. Law enforcement is not picking people off the streets and arbitrarily throwing them into a jail system."

As far as next steps, those two lawsuits filed in California will go into hearings next week and the California Insurance Commissioner will introduce policy to the legislature on bail reform in the next 60-90 days.

Ordinarily, San Francisco city leaders would be responsible for defending against the lawsuit, but since they support bail reform, bail agents will step in when this goes to court.

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