FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2017

Contact: Peter Goldberg, pgoldgerg@brooklynbailfund.org, (917) 684-4362
               Nick Malinowski, nick@vocal-ny.org, (347) 259-4835

New report highlights lack of oversight of for-profit bail industry

New York – On Wednesday, a new report was released by the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund that shows commercial bail bond companies in New York City operating in violation of state laws and regulations. The report, which was sent to Governor Cuomo, Attorney General Schneiderman, the New York State Department of Financial Services, and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, highlights the lack of regulatory oversight of the bail bond industry, leaving New York City’s most vulnerable consumers with little to no protection from unscrupulous bondsmen. The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund was joined in calling for action to protect New Yorkers by a coalition of community-based organizations.

Peter Goldberg, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, noted, “Roughly 45,000 men and women in New York City will be jailed this year for their inability to afford bail. We see the harmful effects of bail and the commercial actors who profit from it every day as people turn to bail bond companies unless they want to fight their case from inside a jail cell. The commercial bail industry would disadvantage already vulnerable New Yorkers even if bondsmen complied with New York State laws and regulations. However, they don’t. People who turn to bondsmen are often overcharged and are victims of deceptive practices. As detailed in our report, it is not uncommon for bondsmen to operate without licenses or to fail to comply with their reporting obligations. This is an industry that should be outlawed. Until it is, it must be subject to meaningful regulation.”

“Every year the commercial bail bond industry siphons into the pockets of private industry millions of dollars from the neighborhoods hit hardest by the epidemic of mass incarceration. This disproportionately creates hardship for people and communities of color and exacerbates the economic inequality that has come, in large part, to define New York City,” said Nick Malinowski, Civil Rights Campaign Director at VOCAL-NY. "It is indefensible that New York State, which holds itself up as a beacon of progressiveness, turns a blind eye to this predatory industry, which exists only through its ability to exploit vulnerable people in moments of crisis.”

Scott Roberts, Color Of Change Senior Director of Criminal Justice, noted, “The release of this new report demonstrates how New York’s practice of forcing people to buy their freedom before being convicted of a crime is putting families in the position of being exploited by the bail bond industry. Because racial disparity exists in every aspect of the criminal justice system, the use of money bail perpetuates this racial bias and enables big bail insurance companies to profit off the backs of our nation's most marginalized Black communities. Like payday loans, bail bonds are a predatory practice that traps Black families and poor people in debt. The government failing to provide oversight of the commercial bail bond industry in New York is them essentially subsidizing a racist, unnecessary and outright dangerous industry.” Earlier this year, Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization released a report that showed how insurance corporations have taken over the bail system.

"New York's broken bail system keeps thousands of innocent people at Rikers unnecessarily, subjecting them to routine violence and other human rights abuses, and neither Governor Cuomo or Mayor de Blasio has spent much political capital to address this issue,” said Glenn E. Martin, President and Founder of JustLeadershipUSA. "Nearly 80% of the people detained at Rikers are being held while their case is pending and have not yet been convicted of a crime. Many of them languish there simply because they are too poor to afford even minimal bail amounts. The private bail bond industry preys on families when they are most vulnerable. Predatory bail bondsmen have a devastating impact on communities of color in New York City as nearly 90% of the people at Rikers are black and Latino. Eliminating the predatory commercial bail industry is a first step towards comprehensive bail reform in New York State."

"The predatory practices of the commercial bail bonds industry in New York City are disgraceful," said gabriel sayegh, Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. "Something must be done about the multi-million dollar transfer of wealth from low-income communities – primarily those of color – to for-profit bondsmen. We join our partners in calling for an investigation into the huge number of blatant violations found in this new report. Human beings should not be stuck in jail because they cannot afford bail, nor should they be subject to the predatory abuses of the bond industry."

"Bail should not be used to funnel already scarce resources out of economically disenfranchised communities. Countless studies show that requiring money bail does not increase the likelihood that a defendant will show up for trial and in fact, the increased incidence of pretrial confinement that is one of the consequences of money bail makes us all less safe because incarcerating individuals awaiting trial has been shown to increase the likelihood that they will reoffend. Governor Cuomo and the Department of Financial Services should take action immediately to end what effectively is an added tax on the Black and Brown community by greatly limiting, or better yet abolishing the commercial bail bond industry in New York State," said Edward Rush, the New York State Legislative Director for New York Working Families.

“The bail bond industry in New York City preys upon black and brown communities impacted by mass incarceration,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “This report confirms a troubling reality and the need to do away with the entire commercial bail sector. We call on local District Attorneys and judges to utilize existing bail statute which provides many alternatives for release.”

Nasoan Sheftel-Gomes, Supervising Attorney at the Community Development Project at Urban Justice Center, noted, “Bail businesses in New York State routinely defraud the most vulnerable consumers — by charging illegal fees, creating delays in bailing people out of jail and not returning collateral. As with other predatory industries, including debt collection and payday lending, regulations must be enforced and strengthened to protect consumers.”

Kumar Rao, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Popular Democracy, said, "Commercial bail bonds act as a massive tax on people who are already poor and over-policed. We must put a stop to all unfair practices that fuel and profit off the detention, incarceration, and criminalization of our communities."

“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; New Jersey has nearly eliminated cash bail and reduced the jail population by 30 percent following bail reform. 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 Brooklyn Community Bail Fund is a non-profit organization licensed under the New York Charitable Bail Act. The Fund pays bail for over 1,500 poor and low-income New Yorkers annually in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, people who otherwise be jailed or forced to plead guilty just to go home.

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