Approximately 47,000 people are held in pre-trial detention on Rikers Island each year, many because they are too poor to afford even a modest amount of bail. Only 11.3% of poor defendants can post bail at $1K, only 17.6% at $500.
52% OF PEOPLE WITH BAIL SET CAN’T AFFORD IT. BAIL IS ONLY USED TO ENSURE SOMEONE RETURNS TO COURT, AND JUDGES ARE NOT REQUIRED TO SET BAIL IN EVERY CASE. RESEARCH SHOWS THAT 84% OF THOSE CHARGED WITH A CRIME IN NEW YORK CITY RETURN TO COURT VOLUNTARILY ON THEIR SCHEDULED COURT DATE WITHOUT BAIL. 94% OF DEFENDANTS RETURN VOLUNTARILY WITHIN 30 DAYS OF MISSING A COURT DATE.
There is an immediate solution. Judges have many options for how bail is set except they rarely utilize them. For example, poor defendants can be released to the custody of friends and family. These alternative forms of bail that are routinely used in other jurisdictions, but almost never in New York.