In late 2023, the Los Angeles County Superior Court system announced it would alter its bail system. It would no longer depend on a person’s access to money to determine who gets released. Instead, it would assess a person’s risk to the public and their likelihood of showing up to court.

These new so-called “Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols” (PARP) have been in place since October, and representatives from the court updated county agencies this week on the first few months of data, which they say is keeping people who are a risk of re-offending in custody while allowing lower-risk offenders to be released without bail.

David Slayton, the executive officer and clerk of the court, told a Long Beach City Council committee this week that the program is allowing cash bail to function as it was intended.

“Bail is not about punishment. It’s about ensuring that people can be safely released — or not — based upon their risk to the public, victim and their likelihood of showing up to court,” Slayton said.

Here’s how the courts say the system is working through its first five months:

How does it work?

Previously, if you were arrested and booked, your bail would be set based on a predetermined schedule, basically a cash amount determined by the charges you’re facing. You could get out of jail by paying a portion of the bond amount, which would get refunded after a person showed up for their court case.

Now, that’s changed. The PARP program applies to the pre-arraignment period (before a defendant sees a judge who can then set their bail). People who are arrested can be released without cash bail, or be held, depending on their criminal history and the likelihood that they’ll show up for their court date.

“Bail is not about accountability, it’s about releasing people safely as they wait to face accountability,” Slayton said.

Instead of having a predetermined cash bail amount, some crimes like bookmaking are now categorized as “cite and release” or “book and release” while other crimes like elder abuse are categorized as “magistrate review.”

Slayton said the magistrate review process is to allow a judge to make a more informed decision on the person’s likelihood to re-offend, noting that before the program’s launch in October, a person could have just paid the bond amount regardless if it was their first or 15th elder abuse offense.

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However, a “cite and release” crime doesn’t guarantee someone will be released without bail. Police officers are allowed to present evidence that someone who has committed a crime should be held and face a magistrate review.

The new system only applies to the period of time before arraignment. It does not apply to violent felonies like murder, rape or smash-and-grab robberies. They are still accompanied by a cash bail amount. About 45% of Long Beach cases fell into this category since October, Slayton said.

The magistrate review process takes several things into account, Slayton told the City Council committee Tuesday, including new criminal activity, new violent criminal activity and the person’s history of showing up for court appearances.

If they score too high on those criteria a person will likely be kept in custody while waiting to be arraigned, but if they’re determined to be “low risk” they’ll be released. Slayton said that 27 cases in Long Beach have gone through this review process since October.

How is it working?

The idea of overhauling the cash bail system faced resistance because some law enforcement officials and residents believed it would limit their ability to keep dangerous people behind bars. Slayton told the Long Beach City Council that the data so far doesn’t support that.

Only about 8% of nearly 21,000 bookings since October resulted in someone being rebooked on a new crime after being released, according to Slayton. Of those, 58% (936) were released on cash bail and only five went through the magistrate review process, Slayton said.

“We consider that to be a pretty good predictor that we’re sorting people into the right groups,” Slayton said.

Overall, about 32% of countywide bookings have resulted in people being released without a magistrate review, wich means the vast majority did not re-offend while waiting for their court date.

But the program is facing some criticism. Maggie Carter, the county’s chief compliance officer for Department of Justice issues, said that the county’s jail population is beginning to creep back up since a dip county officials saw after October.

Additionally, the percentage of people being held in custody awaiting arraignment has begun to increase to levels seen before the program went into place, with Carter saying that 52% of people in county jails are awaiting their day in court.

Carter pointed to the magistrate review process as something that was leading to an increase of people who are being held in custody while they await arraignment.

“It’s not having the impact on the jail population as we hoped for,” she told the LA County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning.

Slayton said while the program can always be tweaked, it wasn’t intended to address the county’s jail overcrowding but to ensure that people were constitutionally processed through the system and released if they were proven not to be a threat to the public.

“They are working as intended, protecting the public’s and victim’s safety and ensuring that those individuals with little risk don’t languish behind bars simply because they can’t afford to pay bail,” Slayton said.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.