Many a heart pangs at the plight of poor people in jail only for want of funds to pay for bail, and at the suicide of innocent-and-never-proven-otherwise Kalief Browder after three years on Rikers Island, while indicted rapist Harvey Weinstein walks free in his wealth.
How many defendants have pled guilty to get out of a hellhole they could have escaped had they had the means to buy a bond, we’ll never know.
More can and should be done — sensibly.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, where Kerry Kennedy carries on her father’s clarion call to reform cash bail, leaps too far in misdirected effort to tear down the pretrial penal system.
Kennedy, as well-meaning as they come, intends to use $5 million in donors’ funds to pay bail for female defendants and those under 18 held in city jails awaiting trial, no matter what charges they face or the amount of bail set by a judge. Each detainee will be interviewed and offered an array of support.
From the campaign, you’d never know that New York City already has three charitable bail programs that spring misdemeanor defendants whose bail is $2,000 or less, and have had reliable success getting them to show up for trial.
A separate city initiative to supervise defendants outside of jail has kept 10,000 people and counting free, including some charged with violent felonies.
Which means those remaining on Rikers are more likely to be there for good reason — with bail, if granted at all, set higher by judges concerned a defendant may not appear for trial or poses a public safety risk.
Gang members with guns are no joke.