Justine Olderman responds to NY Post article on Bronx bail data

In an August 9, 2013 New York Post article headlined “Easiest Walk for Bx ‘High Risk’ Defendants,” the Mayor’s office takes a position that is in contravention of state law, ignores the facts about rates of return, and turns a blind eye to the growing movement for bail reform. After analyzing data showing that judges in the Bronx are more likely than their counterparts in other boroughs to release people categorized as ‘high risk,’ the Mayor’s office announces that “too often judges, DAs and defense attorneys make [bail] decisions on a case-by-case basis.”

What the Mayor’s office overlooks is that New York’s bail statute not only allows, but actually requires judges to make bail determinations in this manner. Indeed, when New York’s bail statute was first passed back in 1970, the legislature was so concerned about the number of people held on bail before trial that it created a list of 10 individualized factors that judges must consider in order to avoid the kind of generalized decision-making that the Mayor’s office proposes. The Mayor’s office also seems to ignore data showing that 84% of people released by judges return voluntarily on their court dates. Moreover, that percentage rises to 94% once you factor in people who return voluntarily within 30 days of their court dates. Even Chief Judge Lippman has called for bail reform in recognition that too many people are detained before trial simply because they cannot afford the price of their freedom. It is disheartening that our Mayor’s office is taking a position that not only ignores the law, facts, and need for reform but also sanctions judges who do the same.

Justine Olderman is the Managing Attorney of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Bronx Defenders.

For more information about The Bronx Defenders Bail Reform Initiative, click here.