Manhattan lawmakers today took a major step in criminal justice reform, passing legislation aimed at changing bail payments.
On Tuesday, legislation introduced by City Council members Keith Powers (D-Upper East Side, Carnegie Hill, Yorkville, Central Park South, Midtown East, Times Square, Koreatown, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, Tudor City, Turtle Bay, Murray Hill, Sutton Place) and Rory Lancman (D-Queens) passed the New York City Council, eliminating fees associated with paying bail by credit card in New York City.
Introduction 1199, removes the 2.49% non-refundable fee charged on credit card bail payments made online, and the 8% fee charged on credit card payments made in-person. The bill passed the City Council 43 – 1. The legislation works toward alleviating the burden of excess fees, so no entity profits from an individual’s time in custody.
“With the passage of Introduction 1199, New York City takes a positive step forward in criminal justice reform. Fees on bail create unnecessary financial hardship on those in the justice system and their families, simply because they do not have cash on-hand. By eliminating the fees associated with paying bail, we eliminate an unnecessary financial hardship that has for so long been associated with the justice system,” said Powers.
According to the Bronx Freedom Fund, only 1 in 10 people in New York City are able to pay bail at arraignment. The City’s Independent Budget Office estimates the cost of incarcerating individuals who cannot afford to pay bail is approximately $116 million.
The measure will go into effect for online payments six months after becoming law and eliminates non-refundable fees from the bail system for all cases.
City Council members Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side’s Yorkville, Lenox Hill, Carnegie Hill, Roosevelt Island, Midtown East, Sutton Place, El Barrio in East Harlem) and Helen Rosenthal (D-Central Park, Lincoln Square, Upper West Side, Clinton) applauded the passage as an overdue victory for underprivileged communities that are already disproportionately affected by high rates of incarceration.
“New York City’s bail system is long overdue for reform. A 2% fee may not sound like much, but for those who are already struggling to come up with money to pay the average misdemeanor bail of $1,000 or felony bail of $5,000, an extra $20-$100 can mean the difference between spending days in jail or not,” said Kallos.
According to a study published last year in the American Economic Review, inability to pay bail after being arrested makes it more likely that you will be convicted of that offense, as first reported in The New York Times. The study found that being held in jail while awaiting trial also makes it more likely that, two to four years after an initial arrest, you will be engaged in criminal behavior or unemployed.
“Additional processing fees and restrictions on check use disproportionately impact low-income individuals and families, who are already at a severe disadvantage when interacting with the criminal justice system. Thank you to Council Member Powers for fighting for a more equitable bail system, and for his leadership on criminal justice reform,” said Rosenthal.