Faith leaders in New York say cash bail system causes inequality

This Jan. 28, 2016 photo shows a solitary confinement cell known all as "the bing," at New York's Rikers Island jail. Advocates say the 2017 death of a prisoner illustrates how New York’s prison system fails to ensure the safety of inmates who might hurt themselves if left alone in a cell. New York state prisoners in solitary confinement or other units in which inmates are isolated were over five times more likely to kill themselves compared to prisoners in general confinement, according to a report from the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

BY RYAN TARINELLI

A group of New York faith leaders is speaking out against the use of cash bail, decrying the practice as a “mechanism for inequality.”

Their comments come as New York plans to implement an overhaul to its bail system, doing away with cash bail for the wide majority of misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases. The changes take effect at the beginning of next year.

The faith leaders’ arguments were outlined in a letter Thursday to District Attorneys Association of New York President David Hoovler, who has criticized the reform rollout and said there should have been more time given to prepare for such sweeping changes.

Other New York prosecutors have voiced myriad concerns over the bail changes.

The faith leaders did not address criticism of the reform, but they argued the system of cash bail favors the rich over the marginalized and poor. The cash bail system, the group said, forces people who cannot afford bail to live behind bars for extended periods of time before a trial.

“When our justice system is operating on the assumption that the size of your wallet directly determines your innocence, we are obliged to speak up in the name of faith and fairness,” said the letter, signed by dozens of faith leaders.

Associated Press