Bail & Pre-Trial Incarceration
Before the 2019 bail reforms, more than two-thirds of the approximately 25,000 people locked in local jails across New York were detained pre-trial, simply because they could not afford bail. Black people were twice as likely as white people to spend at least one night in jail on unaffordable bail. Even one night in jail can upend people’s lives. People can miss work and lose their jobs, housing, and custody of their children, go without their medicine, and, tragically, even die behind bars. For these reasons, many will accept a plea deal, regardless of guilt or innocence, just to get out of jail.
New bail laws have ensured that low-income people get the same right to a presumption of innocence that the wealthy have always had. These laws reduced jail populations in New York by more than 40%, enabling local governments to reallocate funds to meet community needs. However, partial rollbacks to the new laws in 2020 and 2022 undermined this progress and significantly increased pre-trial detention rates. Moreover, courts have failed to adhere to critical due process protections that should prevent people from being in jail simply because they cannot afford bail. We continue to fight for the pre-trial freedom rights of all New Yorkers.