The Village Voice reports on the Bronx Freedom Fund, an innovative program public defenders used to provide bail for petty criminals from 2007 to 2009, before it was declared illegal by a judge. After legislative intervention, the program is to resume later this month. The paper calls it “one of the most remarkable experiments in criminal justice in recent years, a pilot program for a growing movement that might be on the verge of changing the face of criminal justice in New York.” It evolved from a small Bronx Defenders fund that paid bail for people charged with misdemeanors who otherwise would have spent the days and weeks before their trials in jail because they were too poor to get out.
The fund was created by the Bronx Defenders but administered separately by a former employee and incorporated as an independent charitable 501(c)(3) organization. From November 2007 until early 2009, the fund provided bail to nearly 200 people. A judge declared the fund illegal, calling it an uninsured bail-bond business. But the Voice said Bronx Defenders took their case to Albany and convinced legislators to pass a bipartisan bill last summer.