On May 3, 2018 a San Francisco judge ordered the pretrial release of Mr. Kenneth Humphrey, the community member whose case resulted in the California Court of Appeal's landmark Humphrey decision, which cemented into law that people can not be detained because they can’t afford bail. The appellate decision, which came out in January, brought on by Civil Rights Corps and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, has ushered in a watershed moment for California’s bail reform efforts. But despite his historic role, due to the efforts of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Humphrey had been incarcerated for the past 11 months, ironically not given what is now commonly called a “Humphrey hearing.”
The release of Mr. Humphrey is a testimony to how courageous community centered litigation and advocacy can free those that have been fodder to a system of mass incarceration. We honor the liberty of Mr. Humphrey, the work of advocates and attorneys to make his freedom a reality, and what his liberty means for California’s movement to end a broken bail system.
Mr. Humphrey’s release further fuels our movements’ efforts to free those who are still being detained pretrial — held on high bail amounts, or just explicitly detained by the court. In an absurd manipulation of the law, and an unwillingness to change an entrenched practice of imposing confinement, judges are turning high bail amounts into no bail detentions in cases across California. And in other cases, the pretrial release conditions imposed are so oppressive people are practically as restricted in their freedom and liberty as they were while caged.
This is why the community was in court standing with Mr. Humphrey and his public defender. Organizations that are part of a larger statewide Grassroots Coalition to End Money Bail — Silicon Valley De-Bug, Young Women’s Freedom Center, All of Us or None — were at Mr. Humphrey’s court dates to make sure the judge and prosecutor knew that Mr. Humphrey had support, and that we will be holding court actors accountable to newly codified legal protections.
And just as we were in court for Mr. Humphrey to bear witness to this historic day, our movement is equally committed to being in courts across the state to have the same presence. We will be in courts for those whose names don’t make it into the law books or are known by the media, but are loved and supported by families and communities. We know that the promise of any litigation or legislation will ultimately be animated and made real by the power of communities being in courts, and ensuring court actors respect the rights of our people.
To follow our efforts, stay tuned to our running public diary of the California court system: dayincacourt.org
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