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Celebrating the Anniversary of the Humphrey Decision

On January 25, 2018, the California appellate court published a groundbreaking decision — In Re: Kenneth Humphrey — that challenged California’s broken bail system as unlawful and discriminatory. The case, brought by Civil Rights Corps and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, was filed on behalf of Mr. Kenneth Humphrey — to date the most significant figure in the struggle for bail reform in California history. Mr. Humphrey, a retiree residing in San Francisco, was accused of following a neighbor into his residential hotel room and stealing $5 and a bottle of cologne. He was originally detained on a $600,000 bail amount. His attorneys filed a habeas appeal challenging not only his detention, but also the bail system itself that forced him and thousands of others across the state to be priced out of their liberty and stripped of their freedom. The 2018 January appellate ruling declared Mr. Humphrey’s detention as unconstitutional, and created a new pathway to ending pretrial detention and a parasitic bail bond industry that capitalized on the criminal court system’s targeting of communities of color.

One year later, we honor the courage of Mr. Humphrey, the vigilance of his legal team, and the movement of communities impacted by money bail and pretrial detention who are using the Humphrey decision to free their loved ones. The anniversary though comes at an extremely tenuous time in California’s moment of changes in bail law. Rather than building off of the Humphrey decision to further the states’ need for pretrial freedom while eliminating money bail — in the end of 2018 legislators voted in an expansive pretrial detention system masquerading as bail reform called SB10 which gives unfettered power to judges, and relies on racist risk assessment tools, to incarcerate those accused of a crime.


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