City to test bail alternatives

By Bill Parry

The city is seeking new reforms to a bail system for low-level offenders in order to reduce unnecessary jail time, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. He will launch “Bail Lab” later this year as part of a campaign to provide relief for some of the 47,000 who are jailed in the city each year because they cannot afford bail.

The program will test alternatives to money bail, speed the payment process and give judges data to help them decide if some defendants can be safely released.

The mayor promised reforms following the suicide of 22-year-old Kalief Browder in June after he spent three years on Rikers Island without a trial or conviction because his family could not raise the $3,000 bail following his arrest for stealing a backpack. During his time on Rikers, Browder was beaten by guards and fellow inmates and subjected to more than 400 days in solitary confinement.

“Whether or not someone is in a cell on Rikers Island cannot simply be determined by how much money they have in the bank, and the research and tests we will conduct through the Bail Lab will help us build a fairer and safer criminal justice system,” de Blasio said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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