SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - The San Bernardino County Sheriff is blasting California’s new $0 cash bail emergency mandate after he says he was forced to release a repeat felony child abuse suspect immediately after his arrest, and will have to release hundreds of potentially dangerous criminals back into the public under the new rules.
In an interview with FOX 11 reporter Bill Melugin, Sheriff John McMahon decried the state’s order as dangerous and unnecessary.
“I just don’t think it’s good government, and it’s not safe to force the release of people on zero bail,” McMahon said. “The people that we have in jail for the most part are felons.”
The mandate took effect last Monday after California’s Judicial Council issued an emergency rule, ordering that all misdemeanors and some low-level felonies will now have cash bail set at zero, with 13 exceptions for serious and violent felonies.
“We’ve already started releasing those fresh arrests that weren’t on the list of 13,” McMahon said. “The first night into Tuesday morning, there were 6 people arrested on felonies and were released on zero bail.”
The Sheriff says that includes a repeat felony child abuser he had to release because child abuse inexplicably does not appear on the state’s list of exemptions for zero cash bail.
“Felony child abuse does not fit into that list of 13, so even though this guy had a prior for domestic violence conviction for child abuse, he gets arrested for child abuse again, and then he gets released on zero bail with a court date in July,” McMahon said. “So that just doesn’t make any sense to me, maybe I’m missing something, but that doesn’t seem to me to be the right thing to do to protect the citizens of our county. If that person is in our custody, we can protect the victim, if he’s not, we can’t.”
The state issued the mandate to reduce jail inmate populations during the pandemic, but Sheriff McMahon told FOX 11 that San Bernardino County doesn’t have an overcrowding problem, and that inmates are separated and ordered to wear masks.
“Our jail system has 7,700 beds and our current population today is like 5,020, so there’s 2,700 empty beds in our system,” McMahon said.
Still, the Sheriff says about 500 inmates are now eligible for zero cash bail, including some with serious previous felony convictions who judges previously denied bail to.
Some have already been released.
The DA’s office, public defenders, and the courts will conduct hearings to determine the fate of the majority.
“So there’s the potential for some seriously bad guys, violent people, to be let out under this?” Melugin asked.
“Yes,” McMahon replied. “In today’s times, you have to work pretty hard to get into jail, and the folks that are in custody are generally the bad folks, and they’re in jail for a reason.”
FOX 11 reached out to the Judicial Council to ask why, under their mandate, domestic violence suspects don’t get zero cash bail, but child abusers do
A spokesman for the Council provided the following statement.
“I can’t offer any legal interpretation of the new emergency rules, but what I can tell you is that the emergency rule that established the temporary bail schedule was put in place as a way to balance public safety with public health. I can add that in cases where there is a concern for safety, we know many courts are working closely with local justice system partners in making release decisions.”
But Sheriff McMahon tells FOX 11, if it were up to him, none of these inmates would be released.
“To come in for felony child abuse and you have priors for it, and to get released on zero bail and walk right back out of the jail, that is not good government, and it’s not safe for our residents, and it is frustrating, absolutely,” he said.
A local prosecutor for Los Angeles County confirmed to FOX 11 that child abuse suspects are now eligible for immediate release here in California.
“You will go to jail if you spit on your spouse, but if you give your child a black eye, you’re free to go,” he said of the new rules.