Great news, but very sad that it wasn't done in time to save Kalief Browder. Now that NYC is doing this, other cities will be watching closely. Via Think Progress:
Unable to pay $3,000 in bail, Kalief Browder spent three excruciating years in Rikers awaiting trial for a crime he didn’t commit — ultimately leading to the 22-year-old’s suicide in June. But starting next year, non-violent suspects in New York City won’t have to pay bail at all, New York City officials announced Wednesday. Instead, they’ll be diverted to rehabilitative services and supervisory alternatives.
According to the Human Rights Watch, roughly 90 percent of people behind bars awaiting trial are black or Latino. Judges will soon enforce daily check-ins, text-message reminders and required drug or behavioral therapy in lieu of bail.
The change follows mounting pressure to eliminate a bail system that disproportionately impacts low-income people of color who haven’t even been found guilty of a criminal offense — such as Browder. The supervision options are viable alternatives because the vast majority of defendants released under supervision — 87 percent — appear in court when required. Among those who missed their court date, less than 10 percent didn’t show up within 30 days.
Close to 15 percent of defendants — 45,500 — are held on bail in New York City annually. Those who are disproportionately imprisoned because of racially disparate arrest rates will be able to avoid jail time altogether. Today, the average bail amount is $2000 but 44 percent of defendants can’t even pay $500. More than one-third of Rikers inmates have not been convicted. Many of them are there simply because they cannot afford to get out.