Honoring the Historic CA Supreme Court Decision Affirming the Humphrey Decision to Strike Down Money Bail, and Uplifting the Continuing Fight for Pretrial Justice

Editor's Note:

On March 25th, 2021 the California Supreme Court ruled on the case of Mr. Humphrey - affirming that people can not be incarcerated due to their inability to pay. It is a historic win to end the money bail system. We honor Mr. Humphrey, his struggle, and the many communities and advocates that mark this win as we continue to end pretrial detention for all.

When Mr. Humphrey won his appellate ruling three years ago, we read the decision to a room full of families at our weekly participatory defense meeting — where each person had a loved one incarcerated pretrial because they could not afford to buy their freedom. People cried, many who hadn’t touched their loved ones in years - despite the person not having been convicted of any crime. I'm talking bout people who went in when they just had a baby, and that child is in second grade now.

In the following months we organized with families in San Jose and partnering community organizations/participatory defense hubs across the state to make sure those inside jails, those walking into court, and those waiting at home for the return of family members knew: because of Mr. Humphrey, Civil Rights Corps, the SF Defender Office - there was a new day for pretrial justice in California. We held a historic Day in Court coordinated action in front of courthouses across the state to celebrate the Humphrey decision and worked with public defenders to free our people. We then used the ruling as a vehicle to organize — families fighting for the freedom of loved ones lifted up the Humphrey ruling as the standard local courts must honor. And we stayed in those courts - many of our organizations literally sitting in every arraignment court everyday to hold judges accountable to the Humphrey standard.

Because in fact the Humphrey case, then and now, is not simply a legal ruling that exists on paper - the case has become a tool for liberation in our movement. Through CRC, inspiration of the late great defender Jeff Adachi, our participatory defense hubs will continue to use the Humphrey ruling to win freedom at arraignment and bail hearings. And in era when COVID is running rampant through our jails - these are literally life saving actions.

Please know we have loved ones home across the state who otherwise would have been detained had it not been for the Humphrey hearing - and who were able to challenge the allegation outside, rather than face the coercive pressure of taking a plea deal while inside.

That is why we believe Mr. Humphrey is the most important historical figure in the national story of racial justice to end money bail. We were at his court hearing when he was released, and he has continually served as an inspiration for our families and for our movement.

Today, reading the California Supreme Court ruling affirming the appellate decision, is a validation of a ground up movement in California and what we have always known as our truth -  that says liberty cannot be stripped simply because of an inability to pay for one’s freedom.

And while we celebrate this groundbreaking  win - the work for pretrial justice is not over. Our communities will stay in these courts to protect loved ones from the expanded "e-incarceration" - the use of electronic monitoring to still control the lives of people pretrial. After the Humphrey appellate decision, we saw a dramatic growth of electronic monitoring - which is not true freedom. As we fight to end the injustice of people being held in cages, we will continue to fight to stop the use of electronic shackling.

And the California Supreme Court punted on a critical call of who could even be considered for detention. That is clearly where our movement's focus will be given the vulnerable position the court left our communities in. Judges should not have a wide net to cage our community, and our work, uplifted by this historic ruling, will now focus on addressing and eliminating that detention net. 'Til we #FreeThemAll!!!

To see more on our community has used the Humphrey Decision to free loved ones go to: www.dayincacourt.org.