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De Blasio: $17.8M program to keep poor defendants who can't pay bail out of jail

Rikers Island jail, seen here in 2011.

Rikers Island jail, seen here in 2011. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Arrestees accused of low-level crimes in New York City won't need to pay bail under a $17.8 million program announced Wednesday to divert thousands of poor defendants from jail.

The program is expected to help about 3,000 people a year be released to be supervised in their neighborhoods instead of being sent to Rikers Island.

"There is a very real human cost to how our criminal justice system treats people while they wait for trial," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement released by his office. "Money bail is a problem because -- as the system currently operates in New York -- some people are being detained based on the size of their bank account, not the risk they pose."

According to the mayor's office, about 14 percent, or 45,000 people, are detained on bail at arraignment, their first court appearance. Most of those pose a high-risk of flight, but some are accused of petty crimes and can't afford the nominal bail set.

Examples of supervision could include check-ins and text-message reminders.

The program announced Wednesday is separate from a bail fund advocated for earlier this year by the speaker of the City Council.


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