The bail system in New York City needs an overhaul. The problem, according to many involved in the criminal justice system, is that bail is set by judges who apparently don’t have the time to take a look at the specifics of each defendant’s case, including the defendant’s financial means. The result is that bail is simply out of reach for many who are arrested, even for non-violent offenses. Specifically, the bail system which had been in place for many decades led to the following results:
- Almost 90% of those for whom bail is imposed are unable to make bail at their arraignment.
- More than half of those for whom bail is imposed remain confined in jail during the entire time their case is pending.
- About 40% of the jail population of the entire city consists of defendants who have been charged with crimes, but who are unable to make bail during the pretrial phase of their cases.
- Approximately 50,000 defendants remain in jail in the city each year because they are unable to make bail.
In response to what some have termed a “two-tiered system of justice” – consisting of those with and those without financial means – Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has announced a new procedure involving an automatic judicial review of bail amounts. A designated judge in each borough will be assigned to handle the review procedures. In each case, a judge will decide whether the amount of the original bail should be reduced.
The impetus for the new system is more than just common sense. It is a response, at least in part, to some horrific events implicating the bail system. They include the case of Kalief Browder, a 16-year old boy charged with stealing a backpack. He remained on Rikers Island for 3 years because he couldn’t make $3,000 bail. The charges were then dropped, but Browder ended up committing suicide. Arguably, he never should have been processed as an adult, let alone left to languish in jail for years based upon a petty theft charge.
The new rules have just been announced, and hopefully they will have a positive effect on the bail process in New York City.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016