Report: New Yorkers Who Make Bail Still Suffer Wrongful Incarceration Due To NYC Dept. Of Correction Neglect

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The Bronx Freedom Fund (BFF) and The Legal Aid Society (LAS) released a report today on the New York City Department of Correction’s (DOC) continued failure to comply with recently enacted bail reforms, specifically Int. No. 1531A – legislation which mandates the Department to release individuals from custody who make bail within three hours or less."

Since the law's passage, fewer than a quarter of the Freedom Fund's clients have been released in compliance with the law. A recent audit of BFF and LAS client release times in the Bronx and Queens for April 2019 revealed a mean wait time after posting bail of 6 hours and 52 minutes, and a median of 5 hours and 11 minutes – which still does not comply with the times set forth by the new laws. Of the 27 clients bailed out from jail facilities, only two were released within the requisite three-hour window.

Of the 25 clients released more than three hours after bail was posted, nine were released after a period of more than seven hours; three were released more than ten hours after bail was posted; one person was detained for more than 17 hours after bail was posted; and five were jailed overnight, despite having posted bail during business hours of the previous day.

One of these clients was released at one o’clock in the morning into freezing temperatures, nine hours after he had posted bail the prior afternoon. He had recently obtained stable employment and was living in a shelter; he was unable to check in with either his shelter or his employer. This delayed release of just one night in jail thus resulted in him losing both his job and his shelter bed. While his release was being processed, he spent hours in a crowded intake cell with no access to food or water. “They treat us like dogs,” he said. “Just let us go.”

Based on Legal Aid Society data, hundreds of legally innocent New Yorkers are subjected to these illegal delays each week.

BFF and LAS first publically raised this issue last November, an Act which prompted a City Council hearing on DOC’s compliance with the reforms. The City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Unit also released a scathing report last month on the DOC’s failure to implement the new measures.

BFF and LAS will continue to issue these reports on a monthly basis until the Department comes in full compliance with the new laws, which were meant to modernize New York City’s antiquated and broken bail system.

“It's been 7 months since this law was supposed to be fully implemented and almost two years since its passage. It is inexcusable that the Department of Correction has yet to comply. As a result, every week, hundreds of low-income New Yorkers remain incarcerated for hours beyond the legal limit even after their bail has already been posted. We call on Mayor de Blasio to treat this issue with the urgency it deserves,” said Elena Weissmann from The Bronx Freedom Fund.

“DOC is not above the law, and our clients continue to suffer wrongful incarceration at Rikers Island and other facilities – some of the most dangerous jails in the country – because of the Department’s bureaucratic bumbling,” said Elizabeth Bender, Staff Attorney with the Decarceration Project at The Legal Aid Society. “If Mayor Bill de Blasio is serious about fast-tracking the closure of Rikers Island, this starts with reducing the jail’s pretrial detention population. We need City Hall to better focus on DOC’s compliance with these crucial reforms.”