Editorial: Bail Fund, a Step Forward

No one should have to spend days, weeks, months and even years behind bars for a misdemeanor

New York City has taken a step in the right direction with the establishment of a $1.4 million fund to cover bails for low-level offenses committed by people without criminal records who are unable to pay them. No one should have to spend days, weeks, months and even years behind bars for a misdemeanor. Unfortunately, the opposite happens. Jails are filled at enormous costs in both human and financial terms, and not exactly filled with dangerous criminals.
For example, there are many young people imprisoned who deserve a second chance. The most recent case that shook up New Yorkers was the suicide of a young man who spent three years in jail for stealing a backpack. The situation gets worse because New York is one of two states that still tries minors as adults. Civil rights groups strongly supported the “Raise the Age” initiative, which sought to raise the age for teens to be imprisoned as adults to 18. However, the effort failed in Albany.
In addition, there is the fact that a large majority of people arrested for excessive misdemeanor charges are Latinos and African Americans. Even though the help paying bail is limited to the five boroughts, and that according to critics it will only benefit some people, it opens the door for other criminal justice system reforms.
We can’t just stand aside and do nothing. The city spends an average of $450 a day for every inmate. Two years ago, almost 17,000 defendants were unable to get money together to pay bails of less than $2,000. Measures like this must serve as a starting point for a serious debate about processes and laws that we need to change.

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