Intervention: An alternative to monetary bail and pretrial detention
Who is Served: People assessed as low-risk for felony re-arrest and facing detention on charges in New York County, including those unable to afford monetary bail
In New York City, among defendants arrested in 2008 on non-felony charges and given a bail of $1,000 or less, only 13% were able to post bail at arraignment.1 According to the City’s Department of Correction, detaining these individuals while they await trial costs the City an average of $161 per inmate per day. In 2009, consistent with the past decade’s trends in criminal justice, more than 50,000 admissions to the City’s jails were pretrial detainees incarcerated solely because they had not posted bail.2 In 2007, a study by the Criminal Justice Agency found that in 22% of such cases, the defendant was ultimately acquitted or the case dismissed, and in an additional 24% of such cases, the defendant was convicted but the sentence included no jail time, not even time served—thus, in a typical year, nearly half of these more than 50,000 pretrial detainees may serve jail time solely because they cannot afford to post bail.3 For many of these people, the time spent in jail—typically at least two weeks—disrupts home lives, employment, and other key sources of stability and productivity in the community. For those who have behavioral health needs, the experience of incarceration in New York City jails can lead to a severe worsening of symptoms.
The Pretrial Services Approach
Working with court stakeholders including judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, CASES Pretrial Services staff identify people facing detention who are found through screening to be at a low risk for felony recidivism and who would be best served by remaining in the community while awaiting trial. The program tailors service frequency and intensity to the assessed risks and needs of participants. Services include community supervision, court reporting, risk assessment, and referrals to ongoing support and/or treatment providers in the community. Program goals include ensuring participants fulfill all court requirements, sustain engagement in positive activities in the community (e.g., employment), and avoid recidivism.
CASES began operating Manhattan Pretrial Services (formerly, the Supervised Release Program) in winter 2016. At capacity, the program will annually divert more than 800 men and women from short-term detention to community supervision. As noted above, the cost of incarcerating someone in New York City jail is $161 per inmate per day, and Pretrial Services has the potential to generate significant public savings while helping people to continue productive activities in the community (such as employment) who would otherwise be detained only because they cannot afford bail.