Dec 29, 2015

Humboldt County Courts more progressive than San Francisco on bail

Bill Damiano, Chief Probation Officer for Humboldt County responded via email about our local bail schedules.

Humboldt County has a court bail schedule set by the court and historically (based on data prepared for our Pretrial Assistance grant) about 17% of people booked into the jail are released on bail bond.  The remainder of releases are either on Own Recognizance (OR – about 64%, predominantly misdemeanors), a jail booking matrix OR (see description below, about 18%) or an ordered release on our Supervised Release Program (SRP – about 2.3%).

Persons who are booked into the jail  are screened for pretrial release on the Supervised Release Program based on risk to re-offend while pending adjudication in the present matter, or likelihood to FTA for court.  The jail staff does the initial assessment with the Ohio Risk Assessment System – Pretrial Assessment Tool (ORAS-PAT) on all offenders brought in, and they use the scores to help determine who gets released outright with a promise to appear (because they are lower risk, and therefore likely to show up to court and not commit a new offense while pending court).  There are some categories of offenses that are not eligible for consideration for release (“serious” and “violent” felonies as defined by the Penal Code, for instance). 

The tool forms the basis for the jail booking matrix, guiding decision-making regarding booking someone into custody depending upon the current/recent capacity of the jail and their assessed risk to re-offend or FTA.  Lower risk offenders are screened out at booking.  In order to maintain control of the jail population and keep detainees and staff safe, as the jail gets closer to capacity (around 80% and 90%), the score eligible for consideration of matrix OR release increases.  Normally a score of 3 or less in released OR with a promise to appear.  At 90% capacity, a score of 5 or less will be considered.  The tool always allows for an override by a supervisor, with proper justification.  

Bottom line:  Eligibility for release on OR, pursuant to the jail booking matrix, or the SRP program is not based on ability to pay, having a home or a job.  In fact, we have had quite a number of individuals with no stable residence or job ordered by the court into the SRP program (about 35% of those ordered into the program, on average).   

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