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Price of Freedom: Bail and Pretrial Detention of Low Income Nonfelony Defendants in New York City

NCJ Number
Jamie Fellner
Date Published
December 2010
74 pages
This report from Human Rights Watch examines the issue of pretrial detention of New York City defendants accused of non-felony crimes, primarily misdemeanors.
The major findings of this report show that: in 2008, 87 percent of defendants arrested on non-felony charges who had bail set at $1,000 or less were incarcerated because they were unable to post the bail amount at their arraignment; the average length of detention for these defendants was 15.7 days; and 71.1 percent of the incarcerated defendants were accused of nonviolent, non-weapons related offenses such as shoplifting, turnstile jumping, and prostitution. Data for this report were obtained from the New York City Criminal Justice Agency (CJA) and cover all cases (117,064) of non-felony defendants arrested in New York City in 2008 that proceeded past arraignment. The report focuses solely on the pretrial detention of defendants accused of non-felonies with the intent of examining how their incarceration reconciles with the fundamental notions of fairness and equality that are the basis of the U.S. criminal justice system. This report examines the following areas in detail: The Bail Process, Who Suffers?: Bail and Pretrial Detention of Low Income Defendants; Factors Influencing Judges' Bail Decisions; An Alternative to Pretrial Detention: Pretrial Supervision; and Applicable Constitutional and Human Rights Law. Tables and figures


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