The office of Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York on Wednesday unveiled a $17.8 million plan to reduce reliance on the bail system by expanding a program that keeps nonviolent and low-level offenders out of jail while they await trial.
“Supervision could range from regular check-ins in person or by text message and include connection to programs and services that address defendants’ particular needs”, the release states.
The mayor’s criminal justice coordinator, Elizabeth Glazer, tells The Associated Press low-risk defendants will be able to live at home and continue their jobs while awaiting trial. Reforms were recommended by a mayoral task-force last year after the Associated Press reported on the case of a mentally ill homeless man who was unable to make $2,500 bail for trespassing and died in a sweltering hot Rikers cell.
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According to the AP, which broke the story, about 45,000 people are held on bail in New York City each year. “We want to focus on risk to be the determining factor to decide if someone will be in or out; and it has to be risk, not money”.
“That plan will give judges more leeway to release those suspects under court supervision”, the report says. The program will use a risk assesment tool to select eligible candidates and determine their level of supervision, officials said.
Goldberg noted that the city already has pilot programs of supervised release in Manhattan and Queens, but they are under-utilized, he said.
On Wednesday, New York City officials announced a plan to eliminate bail for thousands of low-level or non-violent offenders. At age 16, Kalief Browder was wrongly accused of stealing a backpack and unable to make the $3,000 bail.
The option will be available to defendants in every borough, with the city putting out a request for proposals today seeking bids from non-profit organizations to administer supervised releases.
And criminal justice advocates add that there is little, if any, difference in the rate of return for defendants who are released without bail pending their next court date versus those who are released on a low bail. New York’s chief judge Jonathan Lippman believes alternatives to jail time or no supervision at all “are critical steps in reducing overreliance on bail”.
The function of bail is to insure that the defendant returns to court.
“Despite being the barometer for the criminal justice system throughout the nation, the risk here is very simply that somebody may fall into the system that will end up committing another crime”, said ex- federal prosecutor Michael Wildes.
“I think it likely will save money because less people in jail, there will be less overtime for court officers, the system will run more smoothly overall”, said Slotnick.