On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new legislation that would allow nonprofit groups to post bail for poor defendants charged with minor crimes. The new legislation exempts “charitable bail” organizations from stringent licensing requirements applicable to for-profit bail-bond businesses. For-profit bail providers either charge high interest or require collateral to post bail for criminal defendants.
According to proponents of the bill, the nonprofit groups make it onerous to should licensing fees and other costs and do not seek to recover the bail they pay.
The bill was in response to a report made by the Human Rights Watch in 2010 that found 87 percent of defendants in New York City, whose bail was set below $1000, were unable to post bail. On an average, such poor defendants spend more than two weeks in jail while waiting for trial for minor offenses.
According to supporters of the bill, the period of incarceration has a much more devastating effect than could be conceived because of non-payment of paltry bail amounts. The incarceration usually costs defendants their jobs and puts enormous strain on their families, even without conviction or trial.
In a statement announcing the signing of the bill, Governor Andrew Cuomo said “It is unacceptable for defendants to have to spend time in jail for low-level crimes they may have not committed simply because they are unable to meet the bail requirement.”
The new legislation would allow nonprofit groups registered with the state to post up to $2000 bail for defendants charged with low-level crimes like misdemeanor, and who cannot afford to pay the bail money.
The state’s financial services department will be regulating the organizations. Previously, a nonprofit named the Bronx Freedom Fund had posted bail for nearly 200 people between 2007 and 2009. However, a state judge shut them down holding such activity by nonprofits violated the law, as there was no regulation that allowed nonprofits to post bail for the poor.