White Plains, NY, March 18, 2019— The Urban League of Westchester County, Inc. urges the
Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign comprehensive bail reform this session. We strongly support the Bail Elimination Act (S.2101A - Gianaris), which would end the use of monetary bail, reduce unnecessary pretrial incarceration and improve equity and fairness in the criminal justice system in New York State.
The purpose of the current bail system is solely to ensure a defendant's future appearance in court. However, the current system does nothing but incarcerate defendants, predominantly from minority and low-income communities. Of the more than 20,000 people held in New York’s local jails every day, nearly 70% are pretrial. They have not been convicted, but remain incarcerated - separated from their families and loved ones - because of New York’s unjust and discriminatory bail system. As people await court hearings behind bars, they risk losing their jobs, their homes and custody of their children.
One of the central principles of our criminal justice system is that a person is “innocent until proven guilty”. Pretrial incarceration undermines this principle, which is the most basic protection of our legal system. Rather than being afforded due process, tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers each year are treated as guilty until proven innocent. Current bail practices violate constitutional rights, wreak havoc on the lives of impacted people, and fuel the jail crisis across New York State.
Racial and economic disparities are endemic to this system and the consequences severe. Because money bail ties liberty to wealth, low-income people or those who cannot afford bail are criminalized and languish in jail pretrial. Black New Yorkers are less than half as likely to be released the same day their bail was set as white New Yorkers. For immigrants, an inability to pay bail can lead to deportation. Pretrial incarceration also contributes to the coercion of plea deals, leading to unjust case outcomes and the forfeiture of a constitutional right to trial. In addition to the devastating impact on individuals and families, New York’s jail crisis comes at a high cost to taxpayers. Across New York State, the jail system costs over 2.5 billion dollars annually.
In 2019, New York must pass bail legislation that protects the constitutional and human rights of all New Yorkers, eliminates poverty and race-based jailing, and vastly reduces the number of people incarcerated pretrial. The Bail Elimination Act of 2019 (S.2101A - Gianaris), is the strongest bail legislation in the country, it would:Eliminate the use of monetary bail, ensuring that freedom in not tied to wealth;Vastly reduce the number of people incarcerated pretrial;Guarantee pretrial liberty in the vast majority of cases, protecting the presumption of innocence and right to freedom;Ensure the constitutional and due process rights of all New Yorkers, requiring individualized, evidence-based hearings and speedy trial safeguardsProtect against racially-biased risk assessment instruments, harmful technologies, and mass community surveillance.
Again, The Urban League of Westchester County, Inc. urges the legislature to pass and the Governor to sign the Bail Elimination Act (S.2101A) without delay.