FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2018

Contact: Nick Encalada-Malinowski, nick@vocal-ny.com, 347-259-4835
               Peter Goldberg, pgoldberg@brooklynbailfund.org, 347-763-7051

Activists APPLAUD LEGISLATION TO ELIMINATE COMMERCIAL BAIL BOND INDUSTRY IN NEW YORK

New York, NY - Only two countries in the world -- the U.S. and the Philippines -- allow commercial bail bonds in criminal cases. Several states and jurisdictions within the U.S. have similarly banned the practice, recognizing both the inherent conflict for-profit actors bring to the criminal justice system and the economic harm inflicted upon entire communities as a result of industry practices. In New York City alone, more than $20 million a year is siphoned out of mostly low-income communities of color and into the pockets of private industry. Just as private prisons are banned in New York, so too should this other example of predatory profiteering be shown the door. We applaud NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer on his role in pushing this conversation forward and Senator Benjamin and Assembly Member Blake for introducing this legislation (S8146) as a first step to making our demands a reality.

Quotes:

“As thousands of recent stories in the media have shown, the problems posed by the existence of the commercial bail bond industry will not be solved by rooting out a few bad actors or cleaning up the regulatory structure. The problem is the industry itself – a for-profit leach on the criminal justice system whose business model relies on people being in jail and money they don’t have being the only option for release. Even when commercial bail bond companies work within the boundaries of the law, which in our experience is rare, they siphon off millions of dollars a year from the communities already hardest hit by  mass incarceration – predominantly low-income communities of color. It is unconscionable that New York continues to allow this industry to inflict such grave economic harm on our people,” said Nick Encalada-Malinowski, Civil Rights Campaign Director at VOCAL-NY.

“While ultimately we must end the cash bail system and all forms of wealth based detention, it is past time that we join the every other nation in the world, save one, in banning commercial bail," said Peter Goldberg, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. "Last year we released a report showing that commercial bail bond companies in New York City are systematically operating in violation of the law. As Comptroller Stringers report shows, even when bondsmen operate above board, the industry lines the pockets of for-profit insurance companies by bleeding dry low-income communities of tens of millions of dollars each year. Over 30,000 of us have called on elected officials eliminate the industry and to provide redress for the multitude of New Yorkers who have been robbed in plain sight. We are thankful that meaningful steps are now being taken.”

“There is a growing recognition of the fundamental unfairness of money bail bonds for those who cannot afford it, but less well-known is the terrible harm suffered by families who do manage to pay a bail bonds agent to free a loved one. The bail bonds industry syphons money from the low-income New Yorkers we represent and their families in times of crisis and desperation, often charging them illegal fees. Brooklyn Defender Services applauds Comptroller Scott Stringer for documenting the financial and personal burden private bail bonds place on the city and low-income New Yorkers. We also recognize the leadership of Senator Benjamin and Assembly Member Blake for introducing legislation to abolish commercial bail in New York because it is a predatory and unnecessary industry that has thrived on the suffering of people accused of crimes and their families,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services.

"Wealth plays a defining role in whether a person will be jailed before trial, or able to defend their case from home. When people do not have the money to buy their way out of jail, they can turn to the unregulated bail bond industry - but they risk being charged nonrefundable and often illegal fees, forced to put up unlimited collateral, and subjected to invasive check-in requirements. New York needs meaningful bail reform that ends wealth-based detention and eliminates the commercial bail bond industry. Katal applauds Senator Benjamin and Assemblyman Blake for their leadership on this crucial issue, and Comptroller Stringer for shining a light on the injustices of this industry. We can, and we must, end the practice of transferring wealth from poor communities of color to exploitative for-profit companies," said Mo Farrell, Policy Strategist at the Katal Center for Health, Equity and Justice.

“Private business interests and profiteering off of people's freedom have no place in the pretrial process. The existence of the private bail bond industry fuels an unjust and discriminatory money bail system that methodically marginalizes and punishes poor people and people of color. This industry routinely uses corrupt tactics to keep people trapped in jail and indebted to an unjust pretrial system under the guise of providing “aid” and a “path to freedom”. As community calls to boldly overhaul New York’s bail statute gain momentum, so do demands to eliminate the predatory private bail bond industry. We applaud NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Senator Benjamin and Assembly Member Blake for taking concrete action to respond to these calls, and for their commitment to overhauling the bail system and eliminating bail bonds companies from every corner of our city and state," said Erin Leigh George, #FREEnewyork Campaign Coordinator, JustLeadershipUSA.

“The commercial bail industry relies on poverty for its vitality. Beyond the abusive practices and illegally assessed fees is an irreparably immoral business model that draws on the limited resources of economically distressed communities in selling freedom. We cannot continue to allow bail bonds companies to prey on our most marginalized and under-resourced communities. We applaud the leadership of Comptroller Stringer, Senator Benjamin, and Assembly Member Blake in putting an end to the harm that the commercial bail industry has wreaked on our city,” said Bianca Tylek, Director of the Corrections Accountability Project at the Urban Justice Center.  

"The commercial bail bonds industry is yet one more element of an oppressive and wealth-extracting criminal legal system that, for far too long and in far too many ways, exploits our most vulnerable families.  New York should be leading efforts to end the criminalization of poverty and transform the way justice systems operate. Investigating, reforming, and ultimately dismantling the commercial bail bonds industry are all critical steps in this process, and ultimately to granting our communities the full freedom to thrive," said Kumar Rao, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Popular Democracy.

“Far too many New Yorkers’ lives have been unnecessarily upended by our state’s reliance on commercial bail bonds, which disproportionately impacts Black and Latino people. There are many alternative approaches that would be far less damaging and better serve the interests of public safety and communities, especially in cases of people arrested for low-level drug possession. We cannot allow predatory tactics that target vulnerable New Yorkers to continue unregulated and unchecked,” said Melissa Moore, New York Deputy Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.  

“The scourge of the state’s commercial bail industry is an affront to justice and our values as New Yorkers,” said Elizabeth Bender, Staff Attorney from the Decarceration Project at The Legal Aid Society. “Legal Aid has long called for comprehensive bail reform, and eliminating this industry that profits off of the incarceration of our clients and other low-income individuals is a necessary step to achieving that goal. We laud New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Brian Benjamin, and State Assembly member Michael Blake for introducing this legislation that will hopefully rid New York of the commercial bail bonds for good.”

"An exploitative industry driven primarily by profit shouldn't have any place in determining anyone's liberty or freedom. Yet, we routinely witness the bail bond industry taking advantage of our clients, their families, and their communities," said Alice Fontier, Managing Director of the Bronx Defenders Criminal Practice.  "We applaud Senator Benjamin and Assembly Member Blake for their bold leadership on this issue, and to Comptroller Singer for laying bare the damage that the bail bond industry causes every day.”

“Eliminating the for-profit bail bond system, which exploits low-income people at their most vulnerable moments, is essential to reducing racial and wealth-based disparities in our criminal justice system. We applaud Senator Benjamin and Assembly Member Blake for introducing legislation that prohibits commercial bail in our state, and our city’s Comptroller Stringer for championing this approach. This is an important step in the right direction toward comprehensive bail reform, which we believe should ultimately get rid of the unjust cash bail system altogether,” said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU.

“The bail bond industry is one that unscrupulously profits from families desperate to secure their loved-one’s freedom. This predatory industry has flourished by sucking dry the limited assets and financial resources of low-income, communities of color. Its financial success is not a sign of the industry’s necessity, but a testament to the industry’s well-documented willingness to flout laws, bend rules, and exploit innocent consumers in their time of great distress. New York must eradicate this predatory industry and its practice of imprisoning low-income individuals for their loved-ones’ inability to buy their freedom. We must enforce the existing laws by actually regulating and scrutinizing the bail bond industry to protect consumers from being extorted by bail bondsmen. We are thankful to NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer for exposing the grim reality of the bail bond industry and to Senator Brian Benjamin and Assembly Member Michael Blake for putting New York City consumers first and taking action on this critical issue,” said Nasoan Sheftel-Gomes, Supervising Attorney, Consumer Justice Practice at the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center.

The for-profit organizations and private companies who fuel the cash bail system have amassed a fortune exploiting Black and poor families for their personal gain,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color Of Change. “This bill takes an important step forward by challenging a broken bail system that wreaks havoc on the lives of many to line the pockets of a few,  putting those who continue to benefit from the bail bond industry and protect it from investigation on notice. In New York and across the nation, ending a cash bail system that targets Black communities with impunity and creates profits from the indefinite detention of people unable to pay requires brave elected officials willing to stand up to predatory private corporations who are the architects and beneficiaries of the system. The commitment shown by Comptroller Springer, Senator Brian Benjamin and Assemblymember Michael Blake will set a necessary precedent and build momentum for the elimination of cash bail that saps money and opportunity from our communities.

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