Before 2020, the vast majority of people held in NYC Department of Correction facilities had not been found guilty of a crime. Many were there because they could not afford bail, spending an average of 72 days in jail when someone facing the same charges and with the resources to pay bail would have walked free while awaiting trial. Pretrial detention threatens community safety, as it may contribute to a person’s likelihood to recidivate in the future by causing them to lose their employment, housing, and/or ties to support systems in the community. It also creates challenges for their families and loved ones.
Consistent with systemic racial disparities in the criminal legal system, bail disproportionately affects people from communities of color: more than three-quarters of the Rikers population identifies as Black or Latine, communities whose median family income is significantly less than that of their white counterparts. This racially and economically biased approach to pretrial detention means that bail amounts as low as a few hundred dollars could be the difference between a person being able to stay in their communities, homes, and jobs or sitting in jail for several months while awaiting their day in court.
In January 2020, in a moment of groundbreaking reform, the New York State legislature passed the Bail Elimination Act. The act eliminated cash bail and pretrial detention for all but the most serious crimes, meaning significantly fewer people held on Rikers Island, a critical step to advancing the City’s plan to close that facility by 2026. A key component of this reform is Pretrial Services, which provides support to individuals awaiting trial in the community to ensure they comply with all conditions of their release. This includes reminders about all required court appointments, regular check-ins in person or over the phone, and access to tailored services to address needs and goals.
Since 2016, CASES has provided Pretrial Services (formerly Supervised Release) in the Manhattan Criminal Court, using evidence-informed practices to address clients’ needs while they remain in the community. This means people who may otherwise have been jailed now can maintain employment, stay connected with their families, and, as needed, access support and treatment services while they await trial. This year, an estimated 4,500 people who may have been previously unable to afford bail will receive CASES Pretrial Services as an alternative to jail detention—up from 1,200 in 2019. More than 91% of all CASES Pretrial Services clients from 2016-2019 attended all court appearances, and more than 90% had no new felony arrest while in the program.
CASES Pretrial Services serves people facing eligible charges age 16 and older facing trial in New York County (Manhattan), regardless of where they live. CASES Pretrial Services team assess participants for needs and helps them connect with targeted services in the community, including mental health, substance use treatment, employment, and/or housing services. Most Pretrial Services participants identify as Black, Latine, or multiracial. Almost a third are currently experiencing homelessness or are unstably housed. Services include:
- Screening and assessment
- Court-date reminders
- Face-to-face meetings at clients’ homes and/or in community settings including shelters
- Group-based cognitive behavioral services
- Access to CASES’ mental health, primary care, care coordination, education, and employment services
- Referrals to other community providers to address individual participants’ specific needs and goals
- Mobile services delivered directly in the community