The presiding judge and executive officer of the Los Angeles Superior Courts are defending the court's new policy of releasing those arrested for low-level offenses without cash bail, sometimes called "zero bail." The new Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols (PARPs), went into effect on Oct. 1 and apply only to suspects before they've been arraigned, at which time a judge can set a new bail amount. Critics — including a number of prosecutors running to unseat current L.A.County DA George Gascon — have derided the new policy as "catch and release," and have suggested that those arrested for property crimes like retail theft are immediately being let loose on the street to steal again. Court officials pushed back on that narrative, reports Courthouse News Service. "Money bail is antithetical to public safety," said the court's executive officer, David Slayton. "The bottom line: The new system is working."
Under the new system, serious and violent felonies are still subject to the old money bail system. Non-serious offenses are funneled into one of three categories: cite and release, in which arrestees are cited on the spot, ordered to appear in court to be arraigned, and then released; book and release, where the arrestees are taken to a police station, booked and then released; or appearance before a magistrate judge, who makes a determination on whether or not the accused should be held pending arraignment. Magistrate judges are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Officials said that arrestees have had to wait between four and six hours to see one during the last month. In the first three weeks of the program, of 5,113 bookings, 40% were for serious offenses and fell under the old money bail system and 27% of the arrestees were sent to a magistrate judge. Fewer than a quarter of all bookings resulted in immediate releases — 14% were cited and released, and 8% were booked at released.