On any given day, approximately 70% of the 25,000 people held in New York’s local jails are detained and awaiting trial, simply because they are unable to afford the price of their freedom. Day in and day out, we witness the devastation that our broken bail system wreaks on our clients, their families, and communities. In response, the Bail Reform Initiative has taken a leading role in the CloseRikers campaign and the ongoing debate about bail reform in New York State and shared critical expertise with lawmakers, partner advocacy organizations, and other stakeholders in an effort to bring meaningful bail reform to the state.
Highlights of our work include advising policymakers at state and local level, testifying before the City Council, and drafting legislation. We have also held popular community education events and mobilized advocates and community members to lobby for necessary changes in Albany. And in December 2017, The Bronx Defenders hosted a day-long event about pretrial justice reform that brought together NFL players from the Players Coalition and a wide array of justice system stakeholders, including grassroots organizers, advocates, judges, elected officials, other defenders and, most importantly, directly impacted community members. Every aspect of our work is focused on ensuring that policy change is grounded in the experiences of people caught in the system and that reforms are implemented in a way that serves the goals of decarceration and equality.
In 2007, we founded The Bronx Freedom Fund, a revolving fund that pays bail for people accused of misdemeanors, as a way to keep people in their communities while they await trial. The Fund soon became its own nonprofit and continues to fight for a system that no longer criminalizes poverty. We are excited to see that a project that started at The Bronx Defenders has grown into The Bail Project, which aims to disrupt unjust bail practices from one end of this country to the next.