De Blasio Tackles Inequality By Launching The Bail Lab

City to Test Bail Alternatives and Payment Strategies, Expand Data on Defendants’ Risk


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. There are approximately 47,000 people detained on bail in New York City every year, and the Bail Lab aims to help safely reduce this number for low-risk individuals.


“The Bail Lab will help us understand the best ways to safely reduce unnecessary jail time. Today’s announcement represents the next critical step we are taking to reform the bail system and safely ensure New Yorkers are not unnecessarily detained,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “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.”


“The need to overhaul New York’s bail system has never been more urgent,” said New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. Judge Lippman commended Mayor de Blasio on the launch of the Bail Lab. On October 1, Lippman announced his own set of bail reforms  that he claimed moved New York “towards an efficient, just bail system that carefully balances the public safety and the due process rights of all New Yorkers, regardless of their socioeconomic status.”


Lippman’s new bail initiatives are designed to address what he called a “two-tier system of justice,” one for the rich and another for the poor. According to news reports, Lippman’s plan calls for a judge in each borough to be designated to review bail amounts in misdemeanor cases. An “automatic judicial review” will be triggered when a defendant is unable to make bail.


This morning, the NY Post reported that “[i]n a stunning rebuke of Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s recent “overhaul” of the state bail system, no-nonsense Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin has labelled the plan an “insult” to the judiciary.

“Lippman’s . . . reform of the ‘broken’ bail system insults judges, overlooks that bail review is available presently, fails to provide a complete record of bail/release decisions, and intrudes on the judiciary’s independence,” McLaughlin wrote in an Oct. 6 letter e-mailed to more than 100 New York judges according to the Post report.


In his missive Judge McLaughlin defended the current bail system, writing that because “they produce an unwelcome result does not mean the decision was wrong or that the system is broken.”


Despite objections from jurists, such as Judge McLaughlin, and other critics, Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito said, “The Council supports any effort to reform our broken bail system, from the Council’s creation of a citywide bail fund to the Mayor’s effort to expand supervised release programs.”


“Bail reform is a critical piece of our efforts to end the inequalities that persist in our criminal justice system,” said Bronx Council Member Vanessa Gibson.


Gibson acknowledged that overcrowded jails put undue stress on the correctional system, on correctional officers, and on the detainees themselves. “I’m proud that we as a City are taking steps to reform the bail system and I am confident Bail Lab will be a significant tool in these efforts,” she said.


Bronx Assembly Member Luis R. Sepúlveda commended Mayor de Blasio for implementing the Bail Lab. “We have already seen the negative effects of unnecessary jail time in several high profile cases, this new initiative will help to rid the city of those instances. I look forward to continuing to work with Mayor de Blasio and my colleagues to continue to create a fairer criminal justice system and improve public safety,” he said.


“Bail is based on principles of fairness, decency and equity. If we simply apply those principles, we can restore faith, confidence and trust in our bail system,” said Reverend Que English, Chair the New York City Clergy Roundtable.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email