Cash bail strips wealth from low-income communities

Colvin Grannum | 2/21/2019, 11:20 a.m.
New Yorkers, including elected officials like Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders, are increasingly recognizing that cash bail helps ...
Rikers Island

As president and CEO of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, I lead a team that relentlessly seeks to close racial gaps in household and community wealth so that all families in Central Brooklyn are healthy and prosperous. We work closely with small businesses and community members similar to Ms. Dixon. We know from decades of experience that building assets leads to better socio-economic outcomes that stretch across generations. Even modest savings mean that our community members are more likely to retain their jobs and housing, save money for a down payment or a car, or help their children afford to go to college.

We also have seen that regressive and racially discriminatory practices like cash bail work to undermine the ability of hard working New Yorkers to acquire and preserve assets.

For the past two years, I have sat on the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform. We recommended, unanimously that the city cut the number of people held in jail by half or more, shut down the inhumane Rikers jails, and implement numerous reforms to increase fairness in the justice system.

Ending cash bail is not only a critical step to accomplishing these goals, but will also promote economic and emotional stability for families in low income African-American and Hispanic households.

The good news is that a new state legislative session is upon us. Governor Cuomo has introduced a proposal that would eliminate cash bail, Senate Democrats have advanced similar legislation, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie recently endorsed the goal. Now it is time for our elected officials to take the next step: to stand up for racial justice and vulnerable communities by passing legislation that ends cash bail once and for all.

*Angela Dixon’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

Colvin Grannum is president and chief executive officer of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation and a member of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform.