SWASC Sent a Memorandum of Support for the 2019 Bail Elimination Act (S. 2101A) on March 18, 2019

This Act would end money bail, decarcerate jails across New York State, protect the presumption of innocence, and strengthen due process.

Of the more than 20,000 people held in New York’s local jails every day, nearly 70% are pretrial. They have not been convicted, but remain incarcerated – separated from their families and loved ones – because of New York’s unjust and discriminatory bail system. Current bail practices violate constitutional rights, wreak havoc on the lives of impacted people, and fuel the jail crisis across New York State.

Pretrial incarceration undermines the most basic protection of our legal system: the presumption of innocence. Rather than afforded due process, tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers each year are treated as guilty until proven innocent. Locked away on little more than an accusation, our loved ones and neighbors lose their jobs, their homes and custody of their children. Racial and economic disparities are endemic to this system and the consequences severe. Because money bail ties liberty to wealth, low-income people or those who cannot afford bail are criminalized and languish in jail pretrial. Black New Yorkers are less than half as likely to be released the same day their bail was set as white New Yorkers. For immigrants, an inability to pay bail can lead to deportation. Pretrial incarceration also contributes to the coercion of plea deals, leading to unjust case outcomes and the forfeiture of a constitutional right to trial. In addition to the devastating impact on individuals and families, New York’s jail crisis comes at a high cost to taxpayers. Across New York State, the jail system costs over 2.5 billion dollars annually. In 2019, New York must pass bail legislation that protects the constitutional and human rights of all New Yorkers, eliminates poverty and race-based jailing, and vastly reduces the number of people incarcerated pretrial. The Bail Elimination Act (S.2101A) is the strongest bail legislation in the country.

It would:

  • Eliminate money bail, ensuring that freedom in not tied to wealth;
  • Decarcerate jails, vastly reducing the number of people incarcerated pretrial;
  • Guarantee pretrial liberty in the vast majority of cases, protecting the presumption of innocence and right to freedom;
  • Ensure the constitutional and due process rights of all New Yorkers, requiring individualized, evidence-based hearings and speedy trial safeguards
  • Protect against racially-biased risk assessment instruments, harmful technologies, and mass community surveillance.
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