Bail Reform Women and Justice

The Problems With California’s Broken Bail System are Vividly Illustrated as a 26-Year-Old Pregnant Mother is Bailed Out of an LA Jail For Mother’s Day

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Tuesday, 26-year-old Deshay Murphy, received an early Mother’s Day gift when her $30,000 bail was posted allowing her to be released from jail and go home.

Murphy, a small, slender woman, who is eight-and-a-half months pregnant and has a four year old daughter,* has been locked up in the Los Angeles County’s Century Regional Detention Facility for women, ever since her arrest on April 13 for her alleged involvement in a minor family domestic dispute.

Now, however, instead of having her baby behind bars, the impending birth of Murphy’s second child was celebrated on Friday at a special baby shower that was held in her honor at the Los Angeles Community Action Network offices—or LACAN.

An array of baby gifts for soon-to-arrive baby/courtesy of LACAN

It was LACAN, a nearly two-decade old community organization–which helps low income LA residents to “create and discover opportunities”–that teamed up with Creative Artists Agency to raise the money to bail Murphy out.

“Ms. Murphy’s case illustrates the unjust impact of pretrial detention on Black families,” said LACAN’s executive director Pete White, who on Friday afternoon was in ICAN’s office helping with last minute prep for the baby shower. “Upon hearing of her case,” he said, LACAN immediately identified Murphy as “someone we needed to help so she could return to her 4-year-old daughter, resume pregnancy in a safe environment, and be home for Mother’s Day.”

Deshay Murphy’s baby shower at LACAN, waiting for guests to arrive/courtesy LACAN

Nationally, Deshay Murphy’s release is part of the coordinated effort of the National Black Mama’s Bail Out Day campaign, #FreeBlackMamas, that is giving incarcerated mothers around the U.S. an opportunity to spend Mother’s Day with their families, while highlighting the impact of “destructive bail practices on local communities.”

Since its inception in May 2017, the #FreeBlackMamas program has spread to an impressive number of cities across the nation. According to program organizers, in slightly more than one year, over 14,000 people have donated to bring nearly 200 mothers home to their families and communities in the cities of Oakland,  Los Angeles, St. Petersburg, Montgomery, Memphis, Durham, Atlanta, Houston, New York City, Little Rock, Charlottesville, Charlotte, Kinston, Birmingham, Baltimore, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Washington D.C..

“In California, most of us have the right to freedom before trial,” said UCLA Professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez, who was present at a Thursday press conference about Murphy’s release.  “But that right comes at a price–money bail. In most cases, the price of freedom will never be refunded. Therefore, we are charging people for their constitutional right to freedom,” continued Hernandez, who is the lead researcher on UCLA’s Million Dollar Hoods Project, which maps how much is spent on incarceration per neighborhood in Los Angeles County. “It is time to rethink our money bail system.”

(WLA reported on Hernandez’ important Million Dollar Hoods Project here.)


Jail, bail, and American women

As it happens, Ms. Murphy’s case is painfully typical of the women who occupy our nation’s jails.

Slightly under half of the approximately 219,000 women incarcerated in the United States right now are in local jails, and 60 percent of these jailed women—like Murphy—have not been convicted, but are still awaiting trial, according to a 2017 report produced jointly by The Prison Policy Initiative and the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice.

And, like Murphy, nearly 80 percent of the women in jails are mothers. But, unlike incarcerated fathers, jailed women are, by and large, single parents, solely responsible for their young children, which means most judges consider them less of a flight risk.

Furthermore, the majority of the women waiting for trial, are charged with lower-level offenses—–mostly property or drug-related. In addition, these women tend to have less extensive criminal histories than their male counterparts. In other words, statistically speaking the majority of the women in jail as they await trial are not really behind bars for any reason that benefits safety or justice.

Yet, if bail is set, which is most of the time, women are much less likely to be able to afford to pay than their male counterparts.

The reason behind women’s inability to be able to post a cash bond, according to a Vera Institute report, “is a result of the wide range of social barriers many women involved with the justice system face.” But that inability, says Vera, is also rooted in systemic income inequality.

According to the findings of Detaining the Poor,2016 study by the Prison Policy initiative, women who were unable to make bail had an annual median income of just $11,071, which was nearly one third lower than the annual median income of men who could not make bail.


A broken system

Deshay Murphy’s situation is emblematic of nearly all of the multiple reports’ findings. As we mentioned above, she was not arrested for a low level he said/she said family dispute, that involved no physical violence. (We have agreed not to reveal any additional details of Murphy’s case in order to protect her privacy.)

By any sensible measurement Murphy was no threat to public safety, nor is she a flight risk because, among other reasons, she is about to have a baby and her entire support system is in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, the non-returnable $3,000 fee that a bail bonds office would have required of her in order to front the $30,000 necessary for her release, was well beyond Murphy’s reach, especially with the pile of expenses that accompany the birth of a baby.

Nearly every offense in California is bail-eligible, according to an April 2017 report by Human Rights Watch. Yet, many too defendants, like Murphy, cannot afford to pay the fees that will allow them to go home while their cases make their way through overcrowded court systems.

It doesn’t help that California’s median bail rate is five times higher than that of the rest of the country.

Even worse, as WLA’s Taylor Walker reported last month, in California and across the nation, cash bail has a disproportionately negative impact on poor and minority Americans. The system allows wealthy defendants to go free while indigent defendants who can’t afford bail remain behind bars awaiting trial.

The state’s proposed bail reform bill, SB 10, hopes change this policy of locking people up while they await trial solely because they cannot afford to post bail.

Meanwhile, as the bill slowly wends its way through the legislative process, hopefully toward passage, for this Mother’s Day at least, one locked-up, very pregnant mother was able to bail out—with a little help from a bunch of caring LA friends, many of whom she may never meet.


Those pictured in the top photo are, left to right, Deputy Public Defender, Sherise Francis, Deshay Murphy, Patrisse Cullors of Dignity & Power Now, Pete White of Los Angeles Community Action Network, and UCLA Professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez.

22 Comments

  • “Her arrest last month for her alleged involvement in a minor family dispute” oh boy, reads like a punch line. Guess you need certain life experiences to get that one. Funny stuff though.

    • EDITOR’S NOTE:

      Maj Kong, I really wish I could give you the details of this case, because they’re interesting, and because otherwise you and other readers are left with conventional assumptions.

      We may be given permission to write more about the case in the future, once it’s completed.

      Have a good weekend.

      C.

  • I am unclear what the problem is. She was released from jail and her return to court is secured with an economic incentive for her to return.

    The article doesn’t give details of her working with a bondsman. I imagine LACAN put the money up (which will be returned to them when she returns to court). That is admirable. It is the solution to this issue. Rather than simply release people because some wrongdoer may be poor, community groups like LACAN can raise funds and post those funds guaranteeing their return to court. It costs them nothing, as long as these folks return.

  • If you were unable to provide all of the facts surrounding this case then you should have chosen a better example to illustrate your point. Having just retired from law enforcement criminal investigations and in particularly cases involving domestic violence alleged or otherwise there are too many facts missing from your article. AS a reader, I wish to be fully informed in order to decern the validity of the writer’s premise. If it’s true this was a he said/ she said incident with no evidence of physical injury or witnesses to the assault then the the DA would have dismissed the case and she would have been released 48 hours after her arrest. If there was evidence of the alleged assault domestic or otherwise, then the DA filed Charges either misdemeanor or felony she could have obtained an OR release. Did she or her attorney request release on her own recognizance. If the OR was denied by which Judge and for what reason ? Further, if she was denied OR then she should not have waived her right to trial within 10 days of her arrest and this matters would have been settled one way or the other. For the education of other readers, there is more to the judicial process than just the bail . Anyone arrested in California is entitled to bail and can request OR if they can not afford bail. After a person is a arrested, the arresting agency must submit a PCD (Probable Cause for Detention) to a Judge who decides based on the document there is probable Cause for the arrest and detention of the arrested person. If not then the person is ordered released immediately, by the judge. This occurs with the first 48 hours of arrest. If the suspect remains in custody their case must be presented to the DA with 48 hours or the first open court date. If you are arrested Friday night, Court and DA office is closed your case will not be reviewed until the following Monday provided it’s not a holiday, then its the next open court day. The suspect is then arraigned in court, plea of innocence or guilty is entered on the record, request for OR release or lower bail and in this case both appear to be denied (Why?), Then a court date is set, ten days from date of arraignment unless the defendant agrees to waive the ten days until a later date and is remanded into custody until the preliminary hearing. Where these legal procedures followed?

  • Celeste, she is black. There is nothing you can say that would lead Maj. Kong to believe anything other than she is guilty, she probably committed other crimes, and probably uses or sells drugs. And, he’ll probably throw in a “baby Daddy is up to no good” comment to establish his racist bona fides. Maj. Kong would have made a great Southern Sheriff down by the Louisiana bayou or up in Appalachians. To bad he was born in a different time and place.

  • If you can’t present all the facts, then don’t write the article!!! Lmao!!! Celeste, you crack me up. At least you make your landslide bias transparent.

    • …..and you “Ownership” obviously do not get any attention outside of your daily diatribe on this blog. You’re more than likely a closet tree hugger driving a Prius.

  • Still Laughing; There you go minding everyone else’s business except your own. Your ridiculous snipes have me Still Laughing. It’s all you’re good for on here but at least it’s something Little Buddy

  • Still Laughing; Your last Post says I know a lot, make a ton of sense and that frustrates you.

    You’re left with adolescent snipes, insults and name calling. It’s the epitome of the Left.

  • NYC man bailed out by nonprofit accused of raping woman a week after release.
    Great vetting, @BronxFreedom

    Bailing out those non-violent types is always the right move.

  • Unlike Celeste and her friends most people don’t care and want bad guys and girls to stay in jail.

    According to the latest Harvard-Harris polling data, prison reform — which would deliver lighter sentences to convicted criminals and release at least 4,000 convicts from federal prison — is only considered the biggest priority in the country by six percent of likely voters.

  • According to the latest Harvard-Harris polling data, prison reform — which would deliver lighter sentences to convicted criminals and release at least 4,000 convicts from federal prison — is only considered the biggest priority in the country by six percent of likely voters.

  • Sure Fire, you continue reading a blog by one in that 6% category. I’m sure a 150 years ago, or so, you would have pulled the poll that said most Americans do not want blacks to be freed, or the poll 50 years ago that said most people do not want to share a water fountain or bus with blacks. How about the man that was accused of rape, and wasn’t guilty. Or the one on death row who was exonerated. Have you heard of those?

    BTW, did you see the piece on that fine LAPD officer that was diddling another LAPD officer’s little girl. Fine specimens. How do these people get past the psychological test. Well, at least they eat their own kind. Or, maybe its just karma for diddling some cadet.

  • We don’t know from the article whether Ms. Murphy entered a request at her arraignment for the judge to permit release on her own recognizance with her promise to appear at her next scheduled hearing.
    We also don’t know if she is in complete approval of L.A.C.A.N.’s successful effort to post bail with the court and gain her release from County Jail.
    Certain individuals, under certain circumstances, may feel it is advantageous to remain in custody at the County Jail even when the potential exists for a release pending their voluntary appearance at scheduled future hearings.
    For examples,
    they may not trust their own initiative to successfully fulfill their obligation to attend the scheduled future court hearing. By remaining in custody, their next appearance is guaranteed and a potential bench warrant is avoided.
    they may feel their own self-control mechanisms are insufficient to avoid unhealthy temptations; therefore, remaining in custody may seem a better choice for improving/maintaining their physical/mental health.
    they may have an increased need for professional medical services(such as pre-natal, peri-natal and post-natal). Remaining in custody may appear to present a better opportunity for accessing needed medical resources than if they had been granted release.

  • I haven’t read the story you’re talking about but I’m for the most severe punishment imaginable for child molesters. Way more than the WLA crew and your pathetic little ass, regardless who they are or what they do. Unlike you, who save your bs remarks for only cops and White people, racist cop hating little pimple that you are, I’m equal opportunity when it comes to bad guys. You should know that by now Reg.

  • Sure Fire, equal opportunity? Only if it is between shades of black. And, the “bad guys?” Unfortunately, since you have a badge, you get to determine who is a “bad guy,” and that’s part of the problem. So, save the pontificating for career day at Simi Valley elementary. We know you are a racist cop.

    Ownership, thankfully my mother refused to allow me to an alter boy, a boy scout or cadet, given the number of pedophiles in those organizations. If I bring it up, its because every so often one of your colleagues gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, sort of speak. Thankfully for your ilk, as a fine guardian of society, if you get busted with your hand down a cadet’s pants, you will still collect your pay while they figure out if it was your DNA they swabbed from the little boy, and you’ll probably keep your pension.

    Finally, Marlin makes a good point. Many people prefer to be in jail. With the free room and board and great medical care, like the one officer Craig was squealing about, its an attractive arrangement. I’m not even sure why we consider it punishment. Great points. No doubt a Sargent.

    • cf, give up the “boy” stuff girlie, not fooling anyone anymore. I think ownership is on to something. now why don’t you share with us that deep dark secret that motivates all this hatred, not good for you to keep it locked up inside. Don’t worry Celeste can always get some other pan african,Chicano and gender studies student to do her dirty work.

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