By Naeisha Rose
After several delays, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the launch of a new online bail payment system that will make it easier for New Yorkers to pay bail.
The initiative was set to launch in the spring of 2017, before it was announced it would be pushed to April 2018. Previously, the only option for New Yorkers trying to pay bail was in person and only during business hours. De Blasio said the process was time-consuming due to travel, security clearances, long lines and wait times. The new online bail system will provide a number of conveniences since now the person paying bail will be able to use multiple credit cards. The current in-person process involves one person paying the entire amount in a single transaction.
De Blasio said this will ease the financial burden on a surety, the person posting bail to release someone else, by allowing payments to be spread across multiple credit cards without worrying about maxing out one credit card. In addition, there will now be no geographic limitation and sureties will no longer need to pay bail in person at a courthouse or DOC facility or wait at a facility. A family member living out of state can now theoretically contribute to the bail amount or pay the full bail amount.
Finally, de Blasio announced that credit card bail payment is no longer limited to a single cardholder. Multiple people can now pay portions of the total bail amount as long as the full amount is paid within a few hours of the first transaction.
According to the mayor, since 2013 New York City’s jail population has dropped more than 20 percent and the number of people held on low bail is down by 60 percent. De Blasio said the city will do everything in its power to make the system as efficient and fair as possible.
“People should not be in jail based on the size of their bank account and no one should stay in jail because a family member was unable to get a day off from work to go to court or a correctional facility,” he said.
Most of the online system will be funded through fees. The mayor said the 2.49 percent fee to sureties will be among the lowest in the nation for a service of its kind and scope. For the initial rollout there will be a cap of $2,500 on the credit card bail amount, but de Blasio said the city is working to lift the cap before the end of the year in order to expand the service to higher bail amounts.
Kiosks will also be installed throughout the boroughs to help people who do not have access to the Internet. They will be available in all courthouses before the end of the year.
To use the new system, sureties can go to nyc.gov/
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), who has expressed his disappointment in the delays to the system in the past, said he has significant concerns about the new system. His concerns include the lack of options to pay by debit card, pay by phone, as was promised, to pay by e-check or direct electronic transfer from a bank account.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart