The Los Angeles County Probation Department is committed to building a client-centered, responsive criminal justice system that keeps more people out of jail while continuing to protect public safety. Bail reform is a crucial part of this effort.
The conventional cash bail system favors people with the means to pay, while disadvantaging those without. When individuals are arrested, they are required to post bail before being released to await trial. For felony charges, bail amounts can exceed $25,000 and some resort to loans from high-interest bail bond shops, which can put them further in debt. Aside from generating high costs for the county, extended incarceration while awaiting trial creates a myriad of problems for individuals, including mental distress as well as a loss of employment, housing, family and community support networks. Being detained for extended periods prior to trial makes it far more difficult for people to remain productive members of society than if they had been released on bail while awaiting their court dates. All of this makes their eventual reentry into the community more difficult—and recidivism more likely.
In 2018, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 10 (SB10), which would have replaced the cash bail system with a risk assessment-based system. The change was slated to go into effect in October 2019, but opponents of the bill collected enough signatures to get it placed on the November 2020 ballot, delaying its implementation. Despite uncertainty about the fate of bail reform statewide, L.A. County isn’t waiting. In early 2020, the Los Angeles Superior Court, in partnership with the Los Angeles County Probation Department and other County partners, expect to launch a pretrial pilot program that will mirror the changes proposed in SB10. Under the pilot, the department will completely revamp its operational protocols to incorporate a range of risk assessments and post-release services to arrested and incarcerated individuals. The pilot will be a crucial test to demonstrate that bail reform is possible in the state. If successful, it could serve as a model for the country.
To support this work, the department will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year who will guide the development of a cohesive action plan for the pilot project. This includes meeting with community stakeholders, implementing tools to track and analyze data, and documenting what is working and what isn’t. Through these efforts, the fellow will be a key partner in reforming the bail system in L.A county and keeping more residents facing incarceration connected to their communities and livelihood.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.
Starting in October 2019, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will conduct extensive consultations with probation department executives and other government and community stakeholders to open lines of communication and gain an understanding of the issues, including how the current bail and pretrial services programs work.
Using this base of knowledge and in close collaboration with the Pretrial Services Bureau, the fellow will establish a project management plan that will incorporate project priorities, deliverables, timeframes, staffing needs, and processes for monitoring, evaluating, and reporting. The fellow will also support the development or procurement of tools needed to implement the plan, such as database software, etc.
The department seeks to be as transparent as possible throughout the pilot period. To that end, the fellow will provide periodic project updates to senior management and external stakeholders, including the Probation Oversight Commission and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. The successful fellow will be a deft, data-oriented project manager who can build a foundation to support the pilot’s smooth functioning through to its conclusion.
- Engage Key Stakeholders: Consult extensively with probation department and pretrial services management and staff. Meet and solicit feedback from government and community stakeholders about potential reforms. Review the proposed risk assessment process and outline the benefits of bail reform for the community, the courts, the county probation department and individuals impacted by the proposed pilot.
- Develop an Action Plan: Establish an action plan for the pilot that lays out deliverables, time frames, metrics, potential hiring and processes. Work closely with the Pretrial Services Bureau to finalize the plan. Develop or procure tools as needed that will assist in implementing the pilot and track progress. Incorporate feedback from stakeholders into risk assessment protocols.
- Communicate Progress: Meet periodically with probation department executives and key external stakeholders to share updates and key learnings. Document all aspects of the pilot and assess the outcomes. Make recommendations for how a larger scale roll out might take place and support current staff towards a sustainable outcome for the overall objectives of the work.
- Reaver Bingham, Chief Deputy, Adult Services, Los Angeles County Probation Department
- Ron Barrett, Deputy Director, Adult Pretrial Services, Los Angeles County Probation Department
- David Grkinich, Bureau Chief, Adult Pretrial Services, Los Angeles County Probation Department
- At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly in managing complex, high-level public sector projects, ideally related to criminal justice and/or corrections.
- Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
- Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
- Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
- Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
- Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
- Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
- Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous
- Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
- Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.