An emergency bail schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which eliminated cash bail for many crimes and lowered bail amounts for others, will end on Sunday.
The move, announced by the San Diego Superior Court in March, marks the end of one of the major changes to the justice system caused by the pandemic. Concerned that prisons with large populations in poorly ventilated confined spaces could accelerate the spread of the disease, state court officials in April 2020 ordered bail to be set at $0 for nearly all crimes to reduce prison populations.
The order was later rescinded in June 2020, but the state court system urged district courts to continue using the $0 bail model wherever possible. Later that month, the San Diego Superior Court instituted an interim bail schedule requiring $0 bail in all but about two dozen misdemeanors and about 50 felony charges.
When the Superior Court announced on March 21 that it would end the interim schedule, presiding Judge Michael T. Smyth cited a “significant reduction in COVID-19 cases in county jails.” At the time Smyth noted that there were seven cases of COVID-19 in the prison system.
On Monday, the prison reported six cases out of a total of 4,000 inmates.
Starting Sunday, $0 bail will no longer be mandatory, and any eligible charges can set the amount. The sheriff’s department said in a statement that removing the temporary schedule could increase the prison population.
That could become an issue as COVID-19 cases in the county have increased over the past few weeks, though not yet at the pace and level of the worrisome surge seen in 2020 and 2021.