A new report revealed that the New York City Department of Corrections hasn’t complied with a new law as much as they should’ve.
In a report by The Bronx Freedom Fund and The Legal Aid Society released a report on the DOC’s failure to comply with recent bail reforms. Specifically, the report focused on Int. No. 1531A, which mandates the DOC to release individuals in custody who make bail in three hours or less.
According to the BFF and LAS, since the law’s passage, about 12 percent of BFF’s clients have been released in compliance with the law. In a recent six month audit of BFF and LAS client release times in the Bronx and Queens for the first six months of the 2019 showed a mean post-bail wait time of 6 hours and 52 minutes, and a median post-bail time of 5 hours and 11 minutes. None of the times comply with the times by the new laws. Of the 205 clients bailed out from jail facilities during this period, only 25 were released within the requisite three-hour window.
Of the 180 clients released more than three hours after bail was posted, 58 were released after more than seven hours, 24 were released after ten hours, 14 were detained more than fifteen hours and others were jailed overnight despite posting bail during business hours of the previous day.
“We had our doubts that they would comply,” Elizabeth Bender, of the Legal Aid Society, told the AmNews. “So we’ve periodically done these reports looking at data that the Bronx Freedom Fund uses based on folks they bail out. When they pay the bail, they get a receipt from the Department of Corrections with a time stamp of when they posted bail.”
Sponsored by then New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and City Council Members Elizabeth Crowley, Daniel Dromm, Donovan Richards, Stephen Levin, Rory Lancman, Andrew Cohen, Carlos Menchaca and Ben Kallos, Int. No. 1531A not only requires the DOC to accept bail payments “immediately and continuously” after an inmate’s admitted to custody and requires their release within a certain time period, it also requires the DOC to accept bail in or near all courthouses or online.
But according to the report, things haven’t changed much.
“It’s hard to say how it’s changed,” said Elena Weissman, of the Bronx Freedom Fund, to the AmNews. “Since we’ve started tracking it, there are clients of ours who are still in for 10 hours, 12, hours, 20 hours even after we pay. The average has still gone down, but it’s hard to celebrate a success in that regard.”
While the inmates used in the study either couldn’t talk to the AmNews (due to open cases) or didn’t want to talk at all, the report chronicled how one inmate was released in the middle of the night into freezing temperatures nine hours after posting bail. The person had recently obtain employment and lived in a shelter. The person’s delayed release led to them losing their job.
When the AmNews contacted the DOC, a spokesperson said that they’re doing the best they can with they have.
“We don’t want people staying in jail any longer than necessary. We’ve made paying bail easier with improvements like online payment and self-pay kiosks, but know we still have work to be done when it comes to reducing our discharge time, which is challenging due to infrastructure and safety and security requirements,” said DOC Press Secretary Jason Kersten to the AmNews. “We are working hard to get people back to their families and jobs and soon as possible, and will continue to explore ways to speed up the bail discharge process.”
The bail and discharge process can take longer if the person receives discharge planning services prior to release, has a warrant or hold from another jurisdiction, being transported at the time bail or bond is posted, isn’t in departmental custody at the time bail or bond is posted or requires immediate medical or mental health treatment.
Meanwhile, The Legal Aid Society said it continues to work with actors in the Board of Corrections and with the council members and committees that oversee corrections to try and leverage and force compliance.
“That’s our goal,” said Bender to the AmNews. “To keep this issue alive.”