New York Governor Proposes Ending Cash Bail

By: - January 4, 2018 12:00 am

A sign in the window of a bail bonds office across from the Hall of Justice in San Francisco. Increasingly, states are re-evaluating the purpose of cash bail and are making big changes to the practice.

© Eric Risberg, The Associated Press

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday proposed legislation that would end monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said in his State of the State address that in lieu of bail, people charged with a crime would be released on their own recognizance or face non-monetary conditions, such as reporting to a pre-trial services agency. Under his proposal, bail would be permitted for those charged with violent felony offenses, but only after a judge assesses the defendant’s ability to pay.

Proponents of cash bail say the money or property involved in posting bail, often put up by family members, serves as a deterrent to skipping out of court appearances or fleeing the state or country.

But amid a growing recognition that cash bail is inequitable and isn’t effective in assuring the people who are accused actually go to court to answer the charges, state policymakers increasingly are re-examining the cash bail system.

Six in 10 adults in U.S. jails have not been convicted of a crime. They are locked up awaiting trial, mostly because they’re too poor to post bail, with many spending months and even years awaiting trial. Often, they feel pressure to take a plea deal rather than spend more time in jail.

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Teresa Wiltz

Teresa Wiltz covers welfare, housing and social services for Stateline. Previously, she worked for the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.