The Bail System in New York State

New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman today issued a series of proposals related to criminal justice and bail. The American Bail Coalition has issued the following statement in response.

STATEMENT FROM JEFFREY J. CLAYTON, POLICY DIRECTOR, AMERICAN BAIL COALITION

We have deep respect for Judge Lippman and appreciate his commitment to strengthening the criminal justice system so it is more effective for both the accused and the public. We also appreciate Senator Gianaris’s interest in the same.

We agree that the criminal justice system can be improved and remain committed to continuing to work with all interested parties on changes that will both protect the public as well as the rights of the accused. We also believe that expedited bail review is the best way to guard against people languishing in jail when excessive bail has been set.

However, eliminating or curtailing the role of bail in the process would take the system in the wrong direction. This is particularly true when policy makers and legislators seek to make policy based on flat-out inaccurate information.

Regarding Mr. Browder: there is no disagreement as to the tragic nature of his case. His three-year ordeal at Rikers was unrelated to the issue of bail. The fact is the judge before whom Mr. Browder was brought after his arrest on a probation violation determined that, by law, Mr. Browder was not eligible for bail. As reported in The New Yorker:

(In July 2010, after his indictment) “An officer escorted him out of the courtroom and back downstairs to return to Rikers. It no longer mattered whether his mother could find the money to bail him out. The Department of Probation had filed a “violation of probation” against him—standard procedure when someone on probation is indicted on a new violent felony—and the judge had remanded him without bail.”

Second, the bail system in New York State works. Once a judge sets bail, the job of those who provide bail services is to provide a way for accused – innocent until proven guilty – to remain in the community until the trial date and to ensure he or she returns for trial so the system can proceed. More than 95% of the time, accused individuals released on bail return for trial.

The judiciary process comes to a halt when a defendant fails to appear for a hearing or trial. Bail agents are the only component of the system that guarantees a defendant’s appearance in court – not the defense attorney, the prosecutor, judges nor the police.

About the American Bail Coalition:
The American Bail Coalition is a non-profit organization representing more htan 16,000 small businesses and 40,000 professionals in the surety bail industry. It’s singular goal developing a system of best practices to be adopted by state and local governments that maximizes the release of criminal defendants upon arrest, minimizes days between arrest and release of criminal defendants, and accomplish both through means that protect public safety and the rule of law. The American Bail Coalition advocates for the protection of the right to bail in the United States and resists calls to encroach upon that right. The right to bail while awaiting trial is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, Amendment VIII and is a cornerstone of America’s criminal justice system.

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