Since 2018 there have been discussions about changing the bail schedule in California ultimately waiting on voter approval however due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Judicial Council of California has pushed the “$0 bail” through statewide in an emergency ruling earlier this month. The “zero bail” schedule is for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies in an effort to reduce jail population and prevent the spread of COVID-19. As stated in the emergency rule 4, it will be in effect until 90 days after Governor Gavin Newsom declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted, or until amended or repealed by the Judicial Council.
Due to this new rule the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department was forced to release 129 people as of Tuesday morning, April 21 in the morning and they have made nine re-arrests of people that had been released.
“This is very concerning for law enforcement as we know we experience an average of 70 percent recidivism rate,” stated Riverbank Police Services Chief Ed Ridenour. “While we understand the reasoning behind releasing inmates to protect them from COVID-19 this was a blanket approach across the state, our hope was to have a little more discretion at the local level. The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Adult Detention Facility is a state of the art facility that includes a medical facility inside similar to a hospital. Our jails are not overcrowded and we have several areas to isolate inmates from one another if they show symptoms. To date, we have had no COVID-19 cases within our detention facilities.”
Within the first two days of the “zero bail” order the Sheriff’s office had their first re-arrest, that of Amanda Rogers, 33, who was contacted by deputies on Seventh Street in Modesto. As stated on the Sheriff’s Facebook post, “The woman was found to be on searchable probation for previous convictions and had stolen property in her possession. The property included someone else’s mail, miscellaneous items and a shopping cart. Eyewitnesses and video surveillance footage was retrieved in order to bolster the criminal investigation. It should be noted Rogers was only out of county custody for two-days prior to finding herself yet again going to jail for first-degree burglary, a probation violation and vandalism. She has been arrested no less than ten separate times dating back to December of 2019.”
The post also added that detectives are working on a bail enhancement which would leave lower-level criminals behind bars until they can appear before a judge at a court hearing. On the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page Sheriff Jeff Dirkse explained the ruling on April 13.
The ruling is controversial and there are arguments for and against it, noted Dirkse. The “zero bail” will keep the jail population reduced and protect the inmates from contracting COVID-19. However, many believe this should have gone through the legislative process and been put on a ballot for the people to decide. Although they have been released without bail they will still be held accountable for their crimes and will have to appear in a court of law.
“I think it was a one size fits all response,” said Mayor Richard O’Brien about the order. “There were no COVID-19 cases in our jail. There was still a lot of capacity left in the jail. Letting them out probably put them in greater harm than if we kept them in.”
The Mayor added that the release of the inmates to the public during these times as counties are trying to house the homeless population put more of a strain on what they are trying to do. The Mayors got together and wrote a letter to Newsom expressing their concerns and that they felt it was a bad idea for the current situation.
“I am very confident in the ability of the Riverbank Police Services,” stated O’Brien. “I praise them for their vigilance and experience.”
“While we expect to see an increase in property crimes county-wide from the zero bail order, we want the public to know we are still committed to their safety and security,” explained Ridenour. “We have increased what we call “extra patrols” to provide additional security and oversight on our closed businesses and schools. Our staff is in good spirits despite the daily challenges we face and our deputies are out and about keeping our community safe.”
RPS Chief Ridenour would like to encourage the public to report crimes or suspicious behavior using 911 or the non-emergency 209-552-2468. However, 911 should only be used in an emergency. People can also use HSA-COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org to email complaints or information. He also reminds people to lock their vehicles and to no leave items in plain sight.
“We want to thank the Riverbank community as they are doing a great job practicing social distancing and to date, we have 100 percent voluntary compliance of the temporary closure of non-essential businesses,” added Ridenour. “We are in this together and we will get through this together.”