December 12, 2017

Contact: Jordan Brueckner,, 646-200-5298

Activists Demand Cuomo Take Action Against New York’s Exploitive Bail Bond Industry

Color Of Change, VOCAL-NY, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, JustLeadershipUSA and other organizations delivered a petition to Governor Cuomo’s office today, signed by over 29,000 individuals

New York, NY – Color Of Change, the nation's largest online racial justice organization, joined VOCAL-NY, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund and JustLeadershipUSA today to deliver a petition signed by more than 29,000 people demanding that Cuomo and Attorney General Schneiderman investigate the bail bond industry in New York.

The petition highlights the lack of oversight and regulation of the commercial bail bond industry, which exploitatively extracts millions of dollars from New York’s most marginalized communities –specifically people of color and those too poor to afford a lawyer.

“Like the payday loan industry, the bail bond industry extracts millions of dollars from Black people and poor people by preying on vulnerable families in moments of crisis,” said Scott Roberts, Senior Campaign Director for Criminal Justice at Color Of Change. “In New York, this industry has reaped massive profits while operating virtually unchecked, gouging consumers and often imposing onerous requirements and illegal fees and conditions on families desperate to get their loved ones out of jail. Putting a stop to the widespread exploitation found in this racist and dangerous industry is long overdue. Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Schneiderman must take immediate action to protect their constituents and investigate the predatory bail bond industry.”

“Governor Cuomo’s silence as millions of dollars are siphoned out of low income communities of color by the corrupt and exploitative commercial bail bonds industry is a tacit endorsement of these practices and we are calling on him today to take immediate action against an industry that is actually banned globally in all countries except the US and the Philippines,” Nick Encalada-Malinowski, Civil Rights Campaign Director, VOCAL-NY.

Each year, as many as 100,000 people in New York are imprisoned only because of their inability to afford bail. The commercial bail bond industry is inherently exploitative, charging a nonrefundable fee of about 10 percent of the bond amount and often imposing onerous and invasive check-in requirements as well as illegal fees and conditions.

“While ultimately we must end the cash bail system and all forms of wealth based detention, it is imperative that the commercial bail bond industry be meaningfully regulated so long as it exists," said Peter Goldberg, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. "The report we released in June showed that commercial bail bond companies in New York City are operating in violation of state laws and regulations. Lack of regulation means that in New York City alone, tens of millions of dollars in legally permissible fees – and likely millions more in illegal ones – are syphoned from low-income communities to for profit actors. With this petition, nearly 30,000 of us call on Governor Cuomo to investigate the commercial bail bond industry in New York and to take actions to protect consumers from predatory practices. Continued inaction from the Governor means that the bail bond industry will keep exploiting vulnerable consumers, primarily people of color.”

View the full petition here:

Additional Quotes:

“I spent six weeks on Rikers because I couldn't afford bail," said Michael Muir, a community leader at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. “My mom had to gather the funds from family members to pay my $2,500 bail. My mom paid the bondsman, and then the judge exonerated the bail. But did any of the bonds fees get returned to us? No. It's more than just the money, it's the inhumane treatment people suffer through, and that's not right. We need reform now.”

“For far too long, at their most vulnerable time, our clients are forced to turn to an unregulated bail bond industry that places profit before human dignity. The petition delivered today implores the Governor and Attorney General to take concrete steps to put an end to the exploitive and untenable practices of  New York’s for-profit bail bonds industry,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney in Charge, Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice.

"A predatory industry driven primarily by profit should have no place in determining anyone's access to pretrial justice. 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. "This practice is both morally unjust and practically unnecessary, given that New York's bail statute provides nine alternative forms of bail.  We urge the Governor and the NY Attorney General to realize the law's full potential and bring meaningful scrutiny to the bail bond industry."

“For too long, the bail bonds industry has been allowed to take advantage of the people we represent, and their families and friends, profiting from their desperation to avoid a dangerous stay on Rikers Island. Many bail bonds agents rely on lax enforcement by state regulators to get away with predatory practices, some of which violate even the existing regulations. Additional regulation and greater enforcement of the rules are urgent and necessary,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services.