About . . . . . . Classes . . . . . . Books . . . . . . Vita . . . . . . . Links. . . . . . Blog

by Peter Moskos

December 3, 2010

Lacking Bail Money, NYC Petty Cons Average 15 Days In Jail

Mosi Secret of the Times reports on nonfelony defendants arrested in the city in 2008:
In more than three-quarters of the 117,064 cases, defendants were released on their own recognizance.

In 19,137 cases from that year, bail was set at $1,000 or less. The report found that 87 percent of the defendants in those cases did not post bail and went to jail to await trial. They remained for an average of 15.7 days.

“Here we are locking people up for want of a couple of hundred dollars,” said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel with the domestic program of the advocacy group.

“Pretrial liberty should not be conditioned on the size of your bank account,” Ms. Fellner said.

The report raised the possibility that many of the poorer defendants pleaded guilty at arraignment for sentences with no jail time, simply to avoid being behind bars while awaiting trial.
A fifteen day stay on Rikers costs the city about $3,000 per person.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

This story irritates the crap out of me. Three quarters of defendants receive no bail at all, and just walk out of the court on their own recognizance.

That's right, almost everyone who gets arrested gets to leave on their good word that they'll come back.

The other quarter receive some sort of bail because the judge feels they might not attend a trial. They have long records, committed a particularly troubling misdemesnor, or they have nothing that really suggetst they'll return for trial. Of this quarter, some of people can't afford to pay that amount.

Too bad. The irony is that this is probably the only jail time these people will do for their crimes.

Only in NYC can almost everyone be let go on their word and almost nobody do any jail time except by not being able to make bail, and people still bitch it's not fair. I'd bet they'd change their tune if the city started giving lower bail and more actual jail time.

Peter, you should ask for their data and look into the long records and thin community ties of the defendants who get bail.

PCM said...

How much time should somebody serve for jumping a turnstile or possessing a small bag of weed (even if they do have a record)?

And how much do I, as a New Yorker, want to pay for their incarceration? The real question is what do we do with these people? And how should we spend the money we currently already spend on them (in the form of jail).

I'll be the first to say there are serious problems in the criminal justice system, but let's not forget: whatever New York is or isn't doing, the city is doing something right. We do have a pretty low crime rate.

IrishPirate said...

Well, first no one should serve any time for possession of weed, as it should be legal. Both on utilitarian and libertarian grounds the state has no business criminalizing weed. There's a book out there that makes that very argument, but the title escapes me. Maybe it was "Cop on the Hood" or something. Almost sounds like a porn novel.

As for the petty stuff like turnstile jumping datsa(that's a) different matter.

While leisurely riding my bike through Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood last month I spied a 17 year old villain checking for open car doors and removing items. Ok, it was the Lakeview neighborhood, but Lincoln Park sounds better.

Anyway, I ducked into the alley and called 911. Amazingly the po po arrived in force within minutes and arrested the young rapscallion. Wearing a ski mask on a 60 degree day sorta made him easy to spot.

Age 17, and according to the Cook County Sheriff website still in jail on 20,000 dollars bond. I, as good citizen of the year, had to testify at the preliminary hearing, along with one cop and one of the victims.

Now the Assistant Cook County States Attorney wouldn't tell me if this rogue had a record, but right now he's charged with a felony. IF he has no serious record that strikes me as nutz.

One week in Cook County Jail would be enough punishment for that piece of youthful stupidity.

My point is the petty stuff does need to be punished, but the punishment needs to make sense.

I truly believe "Broken Windows" has some validity, but common sense has to apply also.

Unless we're going to start calling all criminal suspects "halibut" and letting the Palin family beat them to death we may want to consider some common sense toward relatively petty stuff.

MisguidedPotential said...

Anonymous -- why don't you yourself check the statistics. Those ROR'ed are statistically almost just as likely to return on a promise as compared to those who get bail. You can check the information on NYCCJA's website -- they are the pre-trial services agency that makes recommendations for or against ROR to judges in arraignment courts.

Many people are brought in for marijuana possession, theft of services, narcotics possession, very minor vehicle traffic violations, etc. It is a waste of money, time and resources and instead of generating money for the city by just writing tickets, we spend money housing, transporting, feeding, and providing them with basic EMS checkups. It also serves to make people who continuously get arrested for b.s. because they live in the wrong hood dislike, mistrust, and not help the police. In booking most of the inmates think it is a joke and they just clown around with their friends in there -- it doesn't teach them a lesson or make them want to become angels, it's just a waste of money for petty offenses.

PCM said...

[I don't know what happened to this comment--it seems the author deleted it--but I liked it--PCM}:

Anonymous -- why don't you yourself check the statistics. Those ROR'ed are statistically almost just as likely to return on a promise as compared to those who get bail. You can check the information on NYCCJA's website -- they are the pre-trial services agency that makes recommendations for or against ROR to judges in arraignment courts.

Many people are brought in for marijuana possession, theft of services, narcotics possession, very minor vehicle traffic violations, etc. It is a waste of money, time and resources and instead of generating money for the city by just writing tickets, we spend money housing, transporting, feeding, and providing them with basic EMS checkups. It also serves to make people who continuously get arrested for b.s. because they live in the wrong hood dislike, mistrust, and not help the police. In booking most of the inmates think it is a joke and they just clown around with their friends in there -- it doesn't teach them a lesson or make them want to become angels, it's just a waste of money for petty offenses.

MisguidedPotential said...

Hello PCM -- the above was my comment, I'm not sure what happened to it.

Anywho, the reason it annoys me is that I have worked for CJA in the past and the stuff you see sometimes is ridiculous. You see a lot of people who get arrested for first time marijuana possession with NO criminal history, not even youth adjudications. On the movement slip all it will say is that the defendant was in possession of MJ in public, not even that they were loitering, "trespassing", causing a public disturbance, etc.

Oh, and a lot of people get arrested for "having warrants" that have already been vacated in the past; I've even seen some that are from the 70's and 80's.

Sometimes 3-4 days total in the precinct/booking/behind the court room -- is this not a waste of money for nonserious offenses?