Today’s Verdict: Bail Reform

TodayBail Reform 

by David P. Lesch, Esq. 

It’s been a long time coming.  Mass incarceration is destroying our culture as our society slowly feels the financial and moral burden.  And there is no better place to witness the injustice of mass incarceration than right at our own doorstep, Rikers Island.  But now, comes a new plan that would change the requirements for some low-level offenders. In an effort to keep thousands of individuals awaiting trial out of the troubled Rikers Island jail complex, the de Blasio administration will do something to help those nonviolent low-level arrestees who remain in jail simply because they cannot afford bail.

Last week, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (NYS Court of Appeals) stated “far too many individuals awaiting trial who pose no risk to public safety are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford to post the bail amounts set by the courts.”  And Mayor de Blasio agrees saying, “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 bail reform plan is just one way of addressing the dysfunction at Rikers Island.  By reducing the daily population–by at least 200 people a day–Rikers will be a safer place.  Almost every day our airwaves are flooded with tales of overcrowded jails with too little staff to ease the anger that boils through the cells.  All it takes is one spark for our jails explode in spasms of violence.

Many of those incarcerated never recover from even a short stint behind bars.  And studies have shown that even a short incarceration can have long term effects on the inmate’s family in the community. Even President Obama, who recently paid a visit to a Federal penitentiary, has made his beliefs known on the subject.  Mr. Obama is very much in favor of reducing the inmate population in our country.

Under the city’s proposed bail plan, those who would normally remain in jail because they could not afford bail would now be able stay in the community, work, and help support their families.  But these low level offenders will remain under court supervision until their trial.  It’s a win-win for everyone. The criminal justice system will not be overburdened and our jails overcrowded. And families will be able to flourish. Bail reform is important because over-reliance on an antiquated bail system had to be changed.

Luckily that time is now.

David P. Lesch, Esq. is an attorney with Lesch & Lesch P.C. and host of ‘Today’s Verdict with David Lesch’ on Bronxnet. 

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