The Bronx Freedom Fund releases its first Annual Report

The Bronx Freedom Fund released its first annual report this week, showing the Fund’s impact since opening in October 2013. As the first licensed charitable bail organization in New York State, the Bronx Freedom Fund helps eligible clients of The Bronx Defenders post bail in misdemeanor cases where they and their families are unable to afford bail in amounts ranging from $250 to $2000.

In its first year, the Bronx Freedom Fund posted bail for 140 Bronx Defenders clients. The report highlights how bail assistance empowers clients to fight their cases from the outside while working, going to school, avoiding deportation, receiving drug and alcohol treatment, and more.

Most critically, the report underscores the deep wealth-based inequities in our current bail system. It shows how ability to pay bail dramatically alters case outcomes in misdemeanor cases. Clients who cannot afford bail commonly succumb to pressure to plead guilty in order to go home and leave jail. In contrast, after receiving bail assistance more than half of Bronx Freedom Fund clients saw all charges dismissed outright, and the majority of remaining clients resolved their cases with a non-criminal disposition.

Some of the highlights of the report:

  • The Bronx Freedom Fund paid bail for 140 eligible clients over the course of one year.
  • 98% of those clients returned to every required court appearance.
  • The Bronx Freedom Fund anticipates that 95% of bail funds will be refunded and reinvested more than once.
  • Out of 79 bail fund cases that were closed as of October 2014, 56% (44 cases) ended in a dismissal, 23% (18 cases) resulted in a violation similar to a traffic ticket, 9% (7 cases) resulted in a misdemeanor conviction, and 13% (10 cases) saw bail exonerated and returned before the conclusion of the case.
  • The average bail paid by the Bronx Freedom Fund was $768, and some clients were unable to pay bails as low as $250.
  • Stories of bail fund clients highlighted in the report include a pregnant woman who as able to return to work to support her family, a 17-year-old client who was able to enroll in a GED class rather than the Rikers Island adolescent unit, and an undocumented father of an infant who avoided deportation through Bronx Freedom Fund assistance.

The Bronx Freedom Fund has been a model for public defender offices and other organizations around New York City and state. It continues to provide technical assistance and support for those interested in creating charitable bail organizations.

The critical support provided by the Bronx Freedom Fund depends on the generous donations of supporters and partners. For more information, and to donate to the Bronx Freedom Fund, click here.

To download a pdf of the full Annual Report click here.