New York State Senator Michael Gianaris recently spoke out against the state’s bail system. His argument is that the bail system as it currently stands is biased against the poor because they’re often unable to pay bail, thus remaining incarcerated as they await their trial. The rich, on the other hand, are able to bail themselves out and are able to go about their lives pending their court date.
Senator Gianaris’ alternative plan is to eliminate bail completely and allow judges one of three options: release the defendant on their own recognizance, incarcerate them without bail, and finally to release defendants under the supervision of the court. In the mind of the public, the primary purpose of bail may seem to be an effective way to pay your way out of jail. After all, we hear about celebrities being arrested all the time, and they quickly bail themselves out of jail (often within a few hours of their arrest) and go about their business. The thing is, bail also serves as a tool to ensure that defendants come back to court at the appointed date and time.
Bailing someone out of jail via bail bondsman will cost 10% of the total bail amount. This cost is a fee paid to the bail bondsman and is non-refundable. When an individual fulfills their obligations to the court, the bond is exonerated and everyone goes their merry way. When the defendant does not show up for court, though, the person who signed the bail bond (typically friends and/or family of the defendant) is responsible for paying the full amount of bail to the court – an expense that can be considerable. That being the case, the threat of a very large payment provides pretty solid motivation to ensure that the defendant shows back up for court.
If bail is eliminated, what’s to keep someone who’s been released from custody from skipping town and not showing up for court? Moreover, who’s going to foot the bill for their pursuit and capture? You, the taxpayer, will be on the hook for this expense as well as that of maintaining a court body to oversee those who have been released under court supervision.
In summation, what Senator Gianaris’ plan really does is change the current, privatized bail industry and change it into a government subsidized (i.e. taxpayer funded) system.