A human rights group is planning to bail out over 500 women and teenagers from Rikers Island jail in an effort to show that the bail system is discriminatory.
“The crux of the issue is that in New York City, we criminalize poverty,” Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy said in a Wednesday interview, according to The New York Times. “There are no wealthy people on Rikers Island because if you are wealthy, you go free because you make bail.”
Rikers Island is New York City’s main jail complex. There are over 500 women and 94 juveniles at the jail. Two hundred sixty-three women and juveniles are eligible for bail, the NYT reported.
The advocacy group plans to raise roughly $5 million in its efforts to bail out inmates. RFK Human Rights says it has gathered 200 volunteers who will begin getting women and youngsters released from the jail in October. The group will focus on the Rose M. Singer Center and the Robert N. Davoren Complex.
The group will help anyone in Rikers jail who is eligible for bail, according to Kennedy, who claims that the newly released inmates will not pose a threat to society. “If a judge feels this person is a danger to society, they will not make them bail eligible,” Kennedy said, according to the NYT.
Given that it costs approximately $271,000 to house inmates for a year at Rikers Island, Kennedy sees the group’s work as a kind of public service. “These are resources we could redirect toward housing and toward health care, drug rehabilitation or an Ivy League education for every person we put in jail,” Kennedy said. “You could argue that the city should be paying us.” (RELATED: Transgender Prisoner Assaults Four Women Days After He Was Jailed)
Others aren’t so sure bailing out a large number of inmates from the jail won’t pose a threat to citizens. “We have people in our custody who have bail, but they are there for murder, attempted murder, assault and class A felonies,” said Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen, according to the NYT. “[H]ell yeah, there’s somebody’s safety who will be in question.”
New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed support for the bailout action plan, but only for non-dangerous inmates.
New York City’s jail population decreased nearly 10 percent from September 2016 to March 2018, according to the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform’s April 2018 report.
“There are more individuals who are in the New York City jail system with serious mental illness than in all the hospitals,” Dr. Elizabeth Ford, a psychiatrist with the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, said in the report.
The majority of persons in New York City jails don’t go to prison, but go home after their stint in jail. The average age of the those admitted to jail for both men and women was 36 in the latter half of 2017, the report indicates.
De Blasio did not reply to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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