Pandemic policy that set bail at $0 for many crimes is going away Sunday
The temporary bail schedule, which reduced bail to zero for hundreds of offenses, was prompted by concerns of COVID-19 spreading in jails
An emergency bail schedule born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which eliminated cash bail for many offenses and lowered bail amounts for others, will end on Sunday.
The move, which was announced by the San Diego Superior Court in March, marks an end to one of the major changes that the pandemic wrought on the justice system. Fearing that jails with their large populations in poorly-ventilated confined spaces would accelerate spread of the disease, state court officials in April 2020 ordered bail for nearly all crimes be set at $0 as a way to lower jail populations.
That order was later rescinded in June 2020, but the state court system urged local courts to continue using the $0 bail model as much as possible. San Diego Superior Court later that month established a temporary bail schedule that called for $0 bail on all but about two dozen misdemeanors and about 50 felony charges.
When the Superior Court announced March 21of this year it would be ending the temporary schedule, Presiding Judge Michael T. Smyth cited “the significant decrease in COVID-19 cases in county jails.” At that time Smyth noted there were seven COVID-19 cases in the jail system.
On Monday the jail reported six total cases out of a total of 4,000 inmates.
Beginning Sunday, there will no longer be mandatory $0 bail for offenses and any charges that qualified could have a bail amount set. In a statement the Sheriff’s Department said that eliminating the temporary schedule will likely increase jail populations.
That may turn into a concern as COVID-19 cases in the county have increased in the past couple of weeks, though not yet at the worrisome pace and levels of surges seen in 2020 and 2021.
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