Through the Bail Lab, dozens have already shared their thoughts with the Mayor's Office on how New York City can fix bail. New Yorkers have suggested alternatives to bail, raised concerns about the current bail system, and shared their personal experiences with bail. Many are in support of the proposed Bail Lab experiments, while others have expressed hesitations about changes to the bail process — together, these insights have helped guide the City's exploration of possible bail reforms. Here are some examples:
"If someone else in your community is willing to vouch for you, or put up a very small amount of bail, that may be more efficacious than the accused putting up bail."
— Ross Garon
"If a defendant knows that he/she will have a fair, non-biased, and honest chance with the judicial system they will be more keen to return to court."
— Otim Kilama
"Make more use of appearance tickets, which eliminate custodial arrests — and thus bail — from the equation."
— Daniel Marx
The Conversation on Bail
The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the Vera Institute of Justice convened policymakers, practitioners, and advocates in an engaging discussion about the way our City’s bail system works, strategies for making it more fair and effective, and the pioneering practices already in place to inspire enduring change. The event, titled "Resetting Bail: The Price of Justice in New York City," also included a series of videos sharing New Yorkers' personal experiences with the bail system.
Bail Lab in the News
U.S. Cities are Looking for Alternatives to Cash Bail
March 24, 2016
Congressional lawmakers and the Obama Administration introduced separate efforts to abolish the practice of cash bail in the past month.
Queens Democrat Still Pushing to End Bail in New York State
October 26, 2015
The politics of bail seemed to shift Friday when Mayor Bill de Blasio called for bail laws to be strengthened so judges consider public safety when deciding whether and how to release a defendant before trial. The move came three days after the murder of a police officer.
Kalief Browder's Mom Dies of 'A Broken Heart'
They say she died of a "broken heart." Venida Browder, the 63-year-old mother of the late Kalief Browder, died Friday at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx of complications from a heart attack, according to the New York Daily News.
Can NYC Reform Rikers Island Without Replacing it?
November 25, 2016
We are constantly reminded that real change, when it comes to social justice, often comes slowly. The current Broadway hit musical "Hamilton" tries to revitalize the image of a Founding Father who was deeply involved in the 18th-century abolitionist movement, but it took almost another 100 years for emancipation to actually take place.
New York City’s Big Idea on Bail
The Marshall Project -- Elizabeth Glazer
October 15, 2015
Last month in Brooklyn, a homeless teenager was arrested for jumping a turnstile. He had been arrested a few times before, so the judge set bail at $250. The teenager could not pay it. He was sent to Rikers Island jail to wait for trial. He was there for about two weeks. We hear stories like this with unacceptable regularity.
NYC looks to improve bail system
October 13, 2015
In the absence of statewide bail reform laws, New York City officials are looking for practical fixes they can put in place now to help the 50,000 people sent to jail every year because they can't afford bail money. Among the changes announced Tuesday: streamlining the current 65-page form authorizing credit-card bail and better coordinating the bus schedule from courthouses to Rikers Island jail so defendants have more time to post bail.
City Launches Bail Reform 'Lab' Site
October 13, 2015
In an effort to reduce the reliance on bail, the de Blasio administration is launching a study to overhaul the system. As first reported on NY1, City Hall is launching a program called "Bail Lab" aimed at developing solutions to tackle bail reform within the next month. Experts, advocates and members of the de Blasio administration will examine the kind of data judges need to make the right decisions.
City to Prevent 2,000 Low-Risk People from Entering Jail Every Year
August 31, 2017
The New York City Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice today announced the expansion of a pioneering bail expediting program that will keep nearly 2,000 low-risk people out of jail every year. The program helps people pay bail following arraignment, ensures defendants are held at the courthouse instead of going to Rikers while the bail money is raised and assists those navigating the bail payment process. The bail expediting program is funded by the City of New York and operated by the New York City Criminal Justice Agency (CJA), a not-for-profit corporation with which the City contracts to provide pretrial services.
Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice Announces New Tools to Make Paying Bail Easier, Reducing Unnecessary Jail Time
May 13, 2016
The Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice today announced several new tools that will make it easier for defendants to post bail. The resources – developed as part of the Bail Lab – include ATMs in all of New York City's criminal courthouses and an easy-to-understand guide to paying bail that describes how to send bail money to inmates and obtain a bail refund.
Mayor de Blasio Announces Citywide Rollout of $17.8 Million Bail Alternative Program
April 8, 2016
New citywide program will supervise 3,000 defendants in the community, allowing them to remain in the community instead of jail while waiting for trial.
Mayor de Blasio Calls for Change in State Law to Better Ensure Dangerous Defendants are Detained
October 23, 2015
Mayor de Blasio today announced he is calling for two key changes to state law that would provide judges with more tools to ensure that dangerous defendants are not released to the street. The Mayor called for a change in state law to allow judges to consider public safety risk in determining an individual’s bail amount.
Mayor De Blasio Launches Bail Lab To Safely Reduce Overreliance On Money Bail
October 13, 2015
Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced the Bail Lab, the next step in the City’s strategy to reform New York City’s bail system by avoiding unnecessary jail time and protecting public safety. In the coming year, the Bail Lab will partner with the courts to solve the larger problems that plague the money bail system in New York City by testing alternatives to money bail, working with judges to use alternatives, testing payment strategies, and expanding data on defendants’ risks. The de Blasio administration is already working to eliminate bail for low-risk defendants.
What Others Are Saying About Bail
"It’s obvious that jail isn’t good for the jailed. It may be particularly bad for people accused of minor crimes, who are confined not because they are likely to be dangerous but because, under our cash-bail system, they can’t afford to get out."
The New Yorker
“The recent tragic death of Kalief Browder has been a wake up call. The bail system, as administered, is broken.”
New York City Council
“I would much rather, as a taxpayer, front the $500 bail and ensure that the bail fund is taking the steps necessary to secure that defendant’s appearance in court than pay $170,000 a year to have that defendant sit in Rikers Island."
New York City Council
“The rich man and the poor man do not receive equal justice in our courts. And in no area is this more evident than in the matter of bail.”
—Robert F. Kennedy
United States Attorney General, 1964
“When money is the primary mechanism for pretrial release, an unjust and dangerous system which punishes the poor and threatens public safety is established.”
—Rev. Vanessa Wilson
Magnolia Road Church
“Bail was once a tool to keep people out of jail. Now it's often used to lock up the poor.”
Human Rights Watch
“We know that there are thousands of people who are now being held pre-trial in the city’s jails simply because they cannot afford to pay a few hundred dollars in bail. Instead, they are held at great expense in jail and frequently lose their jobs, have to drop out of school and lose daily contact with their children and families.”
CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance
“People should maintain their liberty until they’re convicted. Defendants who can keep their jobs because they’re not in jail will pose less of a threat to the public than those who end up unemployed.”
Right On Crime, a conservative criminal justice think tank
“What's discouraging is the way in which we have continued to tolerate error, the way in which we've continued to accept a system where poverty is so condemning - you know, our criminal justice system is shaped by wealth, not culpability.”
Equal Justice Initiative
"People are realizing there's a better way of doing this."
Vera Institute of Justice