In a nation where one of the basic rights of its society is that its citizens are innocent until proven guilty, oftentimes individuals of lesser economic means, especially those of color, end up losing everything due to the inability to post bail.
Some can lose their jobs, apartments, and even their children.
And in some cases, even their own lives.
In The Bronx, they sit in jail for days, months, and even years like Kalief Browder who took his life after being a victim of the very system that says you’re innocent until proven guilty…unless you can’t make bail which he couldn’t.
The toll on him became too much and the system failed him. He hung himself.
Robin Steingberg, who founded and once ran The Bronx Defenders now heads The Bronx Freedom Fund which for the past 10 years has donated thousands of dollars to poor New Yorkers so that they can post bail and not spend a moment longer than they have to in jail.
The Bronx Freedom Fund offers these sobering statistics:
- People who await trial in jail are 4x more likely to be sentenced to time in jail
- Only 1 in 10 New Yorkers are able to pay bail at time of arraignment
- Without The Bronx Freedom Fund, over 90% of people who stay in jail on bail will plead guilty, even if they did not commit the crime
Now, Steinberg is set to take this program which has liberated thousands from the burdens of the bail system and roll it out on a much larger scale across the country as the first of its kind in the nation.
According to The New York Times, the fund plans to post bail for over 150,000 economically disadvantaged defendants under a program known as the Bail Project opening offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma and St Louis by January 2018 and spread across over three dozens across the country within five years.
Ms Steinberg told The New York Times, “We are hoping to end the immediate human suffering of people sitting in cells because they are too poor to pay their bail.”
Although there are many components to the criminal justice system which needs to be reformed, this is just a small piece of it and along with all the other measures like those proposed by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, like shutting down Rikers Island and vacating outstanding warrants for low-level summonses over 10 years old, it is a start.
Read the full story: Bronx Charity Founder Wants to Pay Bail for Poor Defendants Nationwide
To learn more about The Bronx Freedom Fund, head over to their website.