Thousands of people arrested on low-level crimes in New York City spend days languishing in jail because they are too poor to post bail, says the New York Times, citing a report to be released on Friday. The report, which examines the bail conditions for people charged with nonfelonies like smoking marijuana in public, jumping a subway turnstile or shoplifting, found that the overwhelming majority of defendants in cases in which bail was set at $1,000 or less were unable to pay and were sent to jail, where they remained, on average, for more than two weeks.
The report comes as the number of arrests for low-level misdemeanors, often referred to as quality-of-life crimes, is rising. Human Rights Watch obtained data on nonfelony defendants arrested in the city in 2008. In more than three-quarters of the 117,064 cases, defendants were released on their own recognizance. In 19,137 cases from that year, bail was set at $1,000 or less. The report found that 87 percent of the defendants in those cases did not post bail and went to jail to await trial. They remained for an average of 15.7 days. “Here we are locking people up for want of a couple of hundred dollars,” said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel with the domestic program of the advocacy group.