Na­tional fund start­ing to help bail de­fen­dants out of jail

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Front Page - By Colleen Long

NEWYORK » A na­tional ef­fort is launch­ing that aims to help low-in­come de­fen­dants get out of jail by bail­ing them out as their crim­i­nal cases progress through the courts.

The Bail Project grew out of a suc­cess­ful 10year cam­paign in the Bronx to pay bail for needy cases, led by at­tor­ney Robin Stein­berg of the Bronx De­fend­ers, a le­gal as­sis­tance non­profit. She said the decade of data from that ef­fort showed that 95 per­cent of the peo­ple whowere bailed out us­ing do­nated money re­turned to court for ev­ery ap­pear­ance, and that when peo­ple could get out of jail, the ma­jor­ity were ul­ti­mately not con-

victed of a crime.

The project will con­tinue in the Bronx, and will launch in Jan­uary in Tulsa and St. Louis. It will grow to in­clude a to­tal of 40 dif­fer­ent ci­ties, us­ing a $16 mil­lion re­volv­ing fund and aims to bail out 160,000 over the next five years. Non­profit work­ers will be sta­tioned in the ci­ties and will work with de­fense at­tor­neys and com­mu­nity groups to in­ter­view peo­ple who have been jailed fol­low­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of a crime.

Bail is used as an in­sur­ance pol­icy to get de­fen­dants to re­turn to court. The rules vary state by state, but a judge sets bail

Jail re­for­mad­vo­cates say bail dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fects poor mi­nori­ties, who can’t cob­ble to­gether the­money and­who are dis­pro­por­tion­ately ar­rested in crim­i­nal cases. Even a night in jail can­causepeo­ple to lose a job, or cus­tody of their chil­dren.

af­ter some­one is ar­rested in a crime by weigh­ing fac­tors that in­clude the risk of flee­ing and the safety of com­mu­nity. The money is re­turned at the end of trial, mi­nus pro­cess­ing fees in some states.

In New York, judges set bail in roughly 45,000 cases an­nu­ally, and only about 12 per­cent of de­fen­dants can pay in time to be re­leased from court. The av­er­age fee is $1,000. Nearly half end up in jail for about a week be­cause they can’t scrape to­gether the money in the win­dow of time be­tween their ar­raign­ment and when they are sent to jail.

Jail re­form ad­vo­cates say bail dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fects poor mi­nori­ties, who can’t cob­ble to­gether the money and who are dis­pro­por­tion­ately ar­rested in crim­i­nal cases. Even a night in jail can cause peo­ple to lose a job, or cus­tody of their chil­dren.

“It is re­ally in­tended to try to make sure that no one is in­car­cer­ated for their poverty and their race and that is what is hap­pen­ing in this coun­try,” Stein­berg said.

Data from the Bronx shows a sin­gle dol­lar can be used in two or three bail pay­ments per year. Fun­ders of The Bail Project Pro­pel Cap­i­tal, the Vir­gin Unite foun­da­tion, bil­lion­aire Mike Novo­gratz, CEO of Galaxy In­vest­ment Part­ners, and Ja­son Flom of Lava Records, and the non­profit is seek­ing ad­di­tional do­na­tions.

Stein­berg said an­other func­tion of the non­profit will be to col­lect statis­tics on how bail is used in other ci­ties, be­cause there is a dearth of re­port­ing.

ERIC RISBERG — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

This Wed­nes­day file photo, shows a num­ber of bail bonds of­fices across from the Hall of Jus­tice in San Fran­cisco. A na­tional ef­fort is launch­ing that aims to help low-in­come de­fen­dants get out of jail by bail­ing them out as their crim­i­nal cases progress through the courts.

KATHY WILLENS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this Tues­day photo, a sign ad­ver­tis­ing a bail bonds busi­ness is dis­played near Brook­lyn’s jail and court­house com­plex in New York. A na­tional ef­fort is launch­ing that aims to help low-in­come de­fen­dants get out of jail by bail­ing them out as their crim­i­nal cases progress through the courts.

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