New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced new plans for the city’s bail requirements on Wednesday, July 8th. Now low-level or non-violent offenses can be freed by the judge without posting bail. The bail relief is part of a $130 million package that includes many changes to the city’s criminal justice system. The plan comes as a response to the city’s overburdened jail system, dysfunction at Rikers Island, and the story of Kalief Browder.
The Story of Kalief Browder
At the age of 16, Browder was accused of stealing a backpack and held on bail. Unable to post the $3,000, Browder remained trapped in jail for over three years until the charges were dropped in 2013. While detained, Browder was beaten by correction officers and fellow inmates and held in solitary confinement for almost two years at Rikers Island. After his release, Browder struggled to get his life back on track and committed suicide in June of 2015.
“Some people are being detained based on the size of their bank account, not the risk they pose,” said Mayor de Blasio. His hope is to decongest the city’s jail systems and prevent cases like Browder’s.
Mayor de Blasio’s New Plan
In order to make the new bail requirements work, de Blasio’s administration has created a $17.8 million fund judges can access to substitute bail for about 3,000 low-risk defendants. With this new plan, the daily population at Rikers, around 10,000, can be reduced by about 200. About 45,000 defendants are held on bail per year across NYC’s five boroughs. “This is unacceptable,” said the Mayor. “If people can be safely supervised in the community, they should be allowed to remain their regardless of their ability to pay.” Defendants covered by the new plan will still undergo a modern supervision system including daily check-ins, text alerts, and drug counseling to behavior treatment.
The bail relief plan is modeled after a similar plan in Manhattan and Queens, and other cities such as Milwaukee and Portland, Oregon have avoided using money bail. A pilot program started in Queens in 2009, and since then, 87 percent of the defendants returned to court to complete their legal process.
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