Legal Aid Criminal Chief Says Cash Bail Has Created a Tale of Two Countries; Supervised Release Has Worked
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 2016

Tina Luongo, the Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice, told the Wall Street Journal that the Supervised-Release program has worked so far and welcomed the Mayor’s announcement that the program would be expanded to keep low risk defendants out of Rikers.

“For the counties that didn’t have a pilot program, there’s certainly an educational ramp-up phase, where the courts have to become comfortable with the whole process,” Ms. Luongo said. Those who are unable to pay bail, and therefore end up in jail while awaiting trial, are disproportionately poor and people of color, she said.

“Nationally, there is a recognition, finally, that cash bail has created the tale of two countries,” she said.




Wall Street Journal
New York City Program Seeks to Keep Low-Risk Defendants Out of Rikers
By Corinne Ramey
Updated April 8, 2016

New York City courts have begun allowing some low-risk defendants to go free without posting bail, part of a larger effort to reduce the population of the Rikers Island jail complex.

In March, nonprofits contracted by the city screened 771 defendants awaiting trial and judges enrolled 241 of them in a new supervised-release program, city officials said Friday.

The $17.8 million program, announced last July, targets people who officials say are unable to pay bail but pose no risk to public safety.

In Brooklyn, 237 people were screened and 83 enrolled in March; in the Bronx, 206 people were screened and 53 enrolled; and in Queens, 170 people were screened and 50 enrolled, the mayor’s office said. The program will be able to accommodate up to 3,000 defendants annually, officials said.

Judges previously had two options: releasing defendants without conditions or sending them to jail, said Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

“What this does is broaden the opportunity to have people await trial at home instead of being unnecessarily locked up in jail,” she added.

Ms. Glazer said the program is predicted to reduce the Rikers population by 295 people at any given time.

Those in the program receive calls or text-message reminders about court dates and are supervised through contracted nonprofits.

The initiative has worked so far, although the court system requires an adjustment period, said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal practice at the Legal Aid Society, which provides lawyers to defendants unable to afford them. Supervised-release programs were previously tested in pilots in Manhattan and Queens.

“For the counties that didn’t have a pilot program, there’s certainly an educational ramp-up phase, where the courts have to become comfortable with the whole process,” Ms. Luongo said.

Those who are unable to pay bail, and therefore end up in jail while awaiting trial, are disproportionately poor and people of color, she said.

“Nationally, there is a recognition, finally, that cash bail has created the tale of two countries,” she said.

The new supervised-release program is one of a host of city initiatives, such as speeding up trials and expanding jail alternatives, designed to reduce the population of Rikers Island.

Some officials, including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, have called for the jail complex to be shut down. This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said closing Rikers would cost the city up to $7 billion, and that his administration’s focus was on fixing problems at the complex.