Raising bail can be a huge obstacle for many who find themselves thrown into the judicial process for petty crimes. This has especially been a problem in New York City. There is the story of Kalief Browder, who had to spend years on Riker’s Island for allegedly stealing a backpack at the age of 16. He was unable to raise his $3,000 bail and spent three years being violated by inmates and jail staff (the reason he took his own life, recently). There is the story of a mentally ill homeless man who died of heat exhaustion in his Riker’s Island cell, because he could not raise his $2,500 bail for trespassing. The powers-that-be in NYC have just announced, that next year, judges will have the option to forego bail for nonviolent, low-risk offenders.
According to the AP, the $18 million city plan will allow judges in NYC to replace bail with “supervision options,” such as check-ins on a daily basis, text-message reminders and mandatory drug and/or behavioral therapy sessions. This would drastically reduce the 14% of criminal defendants, or 45,000 people, in NYC (it was reported that 41% are released on their own recognizance). The move was substantiated by the 87% of 1,100 people on supervised release who return to court when they’re supposed to in city pilot programs.
According to the AP:
Initial funding, provided by the Manhattan district attorney, allows for as many as 3,000 defendants charged with misdemeanors or non-violent felonies to bypass bail, letting them live with their families and keep their jobs while their cases wind through the courts. Officials say they would like to expand the program to include thousands more.
Releasing defendants to community supervision based on so-called risk-assessment tools that gauge a person’s threat to public safety is increasingly done in cities and states throughout the country.