De Blasio Initiative Releases Poor Non-Violent Defendants Awaiting Trial

Kerry Picket Political Reporter

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the city will spend $17.8 million to supervise the release of 3,000 non-violent defendants back into the community while they await trial instead of holding them in jail.

De Blasio’s initiative is called “supervised release” and will allow judges to set free defendants to a supervisory program that permits the defendants to be at their residence with family as well as work while awaiting trial.

The de Blasio administration argues in a statement that the initiative “expands judges’ options beyond setting bail — which could lead to unnecessary detention if an individual is unable to pay — or releasing a defendant to the community without a system in place to ensure the defendant returns to court without reoffending.”

The mayor’s office appears to be targeting the 14 percent of yearly defendants who cannot afford to post bail. This amounts to 45,000 individuals.

“While most detainees are high risk or facing serious charges, some are detained because they cannot afford relatively low bail amounts,” the administration claims.

“There is a very real human cost to how our criminal justice system treats people while they wait for trial,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Money bail is a problem because — as the system currently operates in New York — some people are being detained based on the size of their bank account, not the risk they pose. This is unacceptable. If people can be safely supervised in the community, they should be allowed to remain there regardless of their ability to pay.”

It is unclear as to how and who will supervise these defendants and ensure they will return to court on their trial date.