Gov Cuomo: End Cash Bail in New York.
On June 6, Bronx resident Kalief Browder committed suicide. Kalief spent three years —from age 16 to 19—on Riker’s Island, and over 400 days in solitary confinement, simply awaiting trial and because his family could not afford $3,000 in cash bail set by the judge.
No one should ever be held in jail simply because they are too poor to put up an arbitrary amount set by the courts. Jail should be reserved for people who pose a danger to our communities, or are a flight risk. At 16, Kalief was accused of taking a backpack, and as a high school student with a bright future, certainly posed no risk of flight. Kalief remained jailed simply because his family was poor.
Kalief himself told reporters before his suicide that he was “messed up” from his time in jail. Lawyer Paul V. Prestia says the trauma he experienced in jail led to his suicide.
Kalief’s story is not unique. In 2013, homeless veteran Jerome Murdough died in an over-heated cell in Riker’s, detained because he couldn’t afford a $2500 cash bail. These cases are becoming too common: unnecessary detention causes damage to the lives of arrested people every day. Jail is meant for the most dangerous of individuals, not a place to house the poor and vulnerable.
In American jails today, 6 in 10 people have not been convicted of their charges. Most are there because they can’t afford cash bail— and New York has an especially horrible record that leaves many behind bars for months and years awaiting trial. Public defenders say this is causing many innocent poor people to plead guilty— just to get out of jail. And once you have a conviction on your record, it is harder to get a job—and things can spiral downward from there.
Gov Cuomo: You know our bail system is broken, and you have not yet taken action to fix it. End cash bail. New York doesn’t deserve to lose another Kalief Browder.
-Cherise Fanno Burdeen of the Pretrial Justice Institute