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No bail: 763 in SJ County got let free
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Since the California Judicial Council ruled that the state could only hold those facing the most serious charges under the existing bail schedule because of COVID-19 concerns in county jail facilities, a total of 763 people that would otherwise be booked into San Joaquin County Jail have been set free.

All of that could change by the end of the week.

The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office is currently awaiting a new order from the California Judicial Council that will rescind the state’s emergency zero bail initiative – which has been controversial since its inception and was wildly unpopular with Central Valley Sheriffs that felt that the policy actually increased the likelihood of bringing the COVID-19 virus into the secure facilities that they had worked hard to keep safe.

At the time that the initiative went into effect, San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow spoke out in opposition to the implementation because of the likelihood of repeat offenders that would be out mingling in the community where transmission of the virus was taking place.

Those that are awaiting trial that cannot afford bail in their particular cases, Withrow reasoned, were safer in a facility that was taking stringent steps to protect the health of those incarcerated and those who work inside of the facility than they would be in the general public. And, as predicted, numerous examples began to surface of people who were arrested multiple times in a multiple day span but incurred charges that did not meet the threshold for being held in the facility.

Even with a workaround to charge those caught stealing items of substantial worth with looting – which is the act of committing burglary during a State of Emergency – the office still had to release those that didn’t commit serious violent or sexual acts, which amounted to hundreds of people over the two months that the policy was in place statewide.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, once the new directive is in place, the types of crimes that were eligible for release under the zero bail initiative will no longer qualify. That means that those that are taken into custody will have to remain there until they are interviewed by pretrial services to see if they qualify for a release on their own recognizance. Those that do not meet those requirements – which were in place before the COVID-19 pandemic – will have the chance to contact a bail bondsman to be bonded out on the promise that they will appear at their court date.

While San Joaquin County had its examples of people who benefitted significantly from not being held for their crimes, the poster case came from a Southern California community where one individual was arrested three times in the same day for stealing vehicles and could not be held until he appeared in court because of the directive and pressure on local law enforcement agencies to hold only those suspected of the most serious crimes.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.