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New York City's Bail System-A World Apart

NCJ Number
Mary T. Phillips, Ph.D.
Date Published
September 2012
7 pages
Given that New York State and New York City surpass may U.S. jurisdictions in complying with the recommendations of the 2011 National Symposium on Pretrial Justice for pretrial release decisions, this Brief reviews some differences between New York City's pretrial justice system and the rest of the country; and it reviews the National Symposium recommendations, noting the changes required to bring New York City into full compliance.
New York City relies less on financial conditions and releases a higher proportion of felony defendants than any other jurisdiction in the country, without increasing the failure of defendants to attend their court proceedings. The review of the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice's recommendations, as well as a review of other States' practices, suggests several areas for reform that could further reduce New York City's use of pretrial detention. One area for reform would be to increase the use of non-financial forms of release, such as unsecured bonds. Another area for reform is the expansion of supervised release programs for defendants who otherwise would be detained on low bail. Nationally, 12 percent of felony releases involve supervisory conditions. This form of release is available for only a few defendants in New York City. A third area of reform pertains to legislation. If New York State were to allow the courts to take public safety into account in considering release, an empirically based recommendation system that predicts risk of rearrest could be developed. Based on this information, courts could make better release decisions, possibly reducing re-arrest rates. The courts would also have an empirical basis for an option other than high bail for detaining dangerous criminals, who could no longer buy their pretrial freedom. The brief concludes with recommendations from the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice. 5 figures


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