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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Letters

Keep Moving Forward

Jan 8, 2020

To the editor:
One of the fundamental principles of our criminal legal system is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. But for decades, tens of thousands of New Yorkers have been held in jails not because they were guilty of a crime, but due to the size of their bank account.
If two people were arrested for a crime, one rich and one poor, the rich person would often get to go home while the poor person would languish in jail, even though both are seen as innocent under the eyes of the law.
Opponents of bail reform point to the new costs associated with implementing these reforms but fail to acknowledge the human costs of incarceration. Those who are left in jail pretrial often have two choices: take a plea deal or remain incarcerated for months and sometimes years at a time. This harms people in our community, causing them to lose their jobs, housing and sometimes children.
Bail has been used as a tool to keep poor people incarcerated pretrial, not keep communities safe.
It strips households of their financial resources, drives them into debt, and destroys communities. If safety is the concern then we must ensure people have adequate housing, jobs, and schools to send their children to.
Bail was intended to ensure that people who were released return to court, not to peg one's liberty to their means. There are many other ways to ensure people return to court, such as court reminders and pretrial services, and studies show that the majority of people actually return to court after being released.
Lawmakers listened to what the majority of New Yorkers have been demanding for years: that no one be jailed simply because they are poor. This January, re-forms will go into effect so that far fewer people will be detained in jails due to their poverty.
New York must not reverse course on these reforms and continue to push our state forward to ensure that justice is not available only to those with means.


Lorraine Lopez-Janove




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