NYC Mayor Creates $17.8M Program to Pay Bail for Poor Defendants

AP Photo/John Minchillo
AP Photo/John Minchillo
New York, NY

Low-level criminals in New York City won’t need to pay bail any more with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new “supervised release” program unveiled this week.

The $17.8 million program is aimed at helping low income defendants more easily make bail. Those who qualify for the program will also be released back to their neighborhoods and monitored there instead of being sent to Rikers Island Correctional Facility.

“There is a very real human cost to how our criminal justice system treats people while they wait for trial,” de Blasio said on Wednesday. “Money bail is a problem because–as the system currently operates in New York–some people are being detained based on the size of their bank account, not the risk they pose.”

The program is funded by $4 million in city funds with the remainder being supplied by asset forfeiture funds from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

But NYPD Commissioner William Bratton was skeptical of the new program, noting that “relatively few people” are unable to make bail.

“I would not be interested in using government money to bail out somebody that was that was just engaged in a domestic violence incident or had just been arrested for drunk driving,” Bratton said.

Mayor de Blasio’s new program is in addition to a similar fund proposed by the city council earlier this year.

In April, NY City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito proposed the fund, claiming that it would actually save money for the city. Instead of housing defendants who can’t pay bail, the program is intended to free them until their court dates.

“The idea that you can rot in jail for nine days because you’re poor and you don’t have $500 to pay your bail is to me not acceptable,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said earlier this year.

According to the mayor’s office, 45,500 arrestees annually are detained on bail at their first court appearance. Many are a flight risk, but those accused of petty crimes sometimes can’t afford bail.

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