New York City is still imprisoning tens of thousands of people each year because they can't afford bail, according to data released today by the city's Independent Budget Office. In addition to exposing people who are presumed innocent to the many hazards of Rikers Island, pretrial detention disrupts people's ability to work, pay rent, and take care of their families, and drastically increases the chances that one will be found guilty of a crime.
On an average day in 2016, the city's pretrial jail population is 7,633—2,157 more are serving short sentences after being convicted—and 52 percent of those pretrial detainees are unable to post bail, according to the IBO data. The remainder were being held without the option of bail, or had other outstanding holds or warrants.
"There really is no good explanation for detaining a poor person...in New York simply because they can’t afford bail," said Joshua Norkin, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society focused on bail reform.
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