Despite recent efforts in the last year to change how bail is doled out in New York City, some feel those efforts are not enough. The New York Times reported that in 2015, officials planned to alter bail requirements for some offenders. People arrested for non-violent crimes and misdemeanors would be placed under court supervision as they awaited trial rather than paying monetary bail. The reason cited is that many of these low-risk defendants could not afford bail set at even a few hundred dollars and are contributing to overpopulation issues at Rikers Island.
This could have a huge impact on the 45,000 defendants held on bail each year in all five New York City boroughs. A pilot program that began in Queens in 2009 saw 87 percent of defendants show up for their court date. In lieu of monetary bail, defendants are released under court supervision with varying forms of oversight. Such oversight an include texts or phone calls reminding people of their scheduled court appearances, as well as in-person meetings for some defendants.
Despite recent efforts in the last year to change how bail is doled out in New York City, some feel those efforts are not enough.
However, detractors feel that these reform initiatives are not doing enough. Some individuals, they argue are not considered flight risks but still cannot afford paying any amount of money bail. The Huffington Post reports that in 2003-04, the average length of pretrial detention was 18 days for those accused of misdemeanors and 51 days for felonies. In 2015, the average length of pretrial incarcertaion for all defendants was 55.6 days, which was a one and a half percent increase from the previous year.
These people also argue that since more than 55 percent of pretrial detainees are African American, assigning bail when defendants are not a flight risk places an undue financial burden on the city’s African American community. If bail cannot be met, it becomes difficult for detainees to hold a job, and they may be more likely to accept a plea bargain regardless of how strong the case is against them. Since one study found that almost a third of felony detainees were not considered a real flight risk, supervised release or some modified amount of money bail for these defendants would perhaps be more appropriate.