Each day, countless New Yorkers accused of petty crimes are sent to Rikers Island. They are not there to serve time as a punishment; they haven't been found guilty of any crime. Instead, they are languishing in jail because they cannot afford to post bail right away. With 90% of these pretrial detainees identifying as Black or Hispanic, the inevitable result is a criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts low-income people of color. Indigent citizens unable to post bail often spend months in a jail cell awaiting trial. Despite their innocence, an inability to pay pressures vulnerable New Yorkers to plead guilty just to be released from jail and return to their families. Thus, poverty robs the accused of the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. The damage doesn't end with a guilty plea. Bail pushes already-struggling families past their financial breaking point, and even deeper into the margins of society. Even a few days in Rikers can mean unemployment, eviction or deportation. In short, bail destroys lives. The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund seeks to remedy the devastating consequences of criminal justice involvement by paying bail for indigent individuals charged with low-level offenses. By doing so, the Fund is able to keep innocent Brooklynites out of Rikers and secure the right to a fair trial for all--not just those who can afford it.
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