New York City courts rely heavily on making defendants pay bail to get out of jail before trial. But thousands of inmates can’t, leaving taxpayers footing the cost of locking up thousands of people who could otherwise be released, according to a Thursday report. And critics say these figures don’t consider the full human toll of the practice, which heaps untold expenses on the city due to lost opportunity.
On any given day in the city, nearly 4,000 people are awaiting trial behind bars simply because they can’t afford to pay bail, finds an Independent Budget Office audit of pretrial defendants in the city. All told, the city spends $116 million each year incarcerating these individuals who have not been convicted of a crime.
The report uses 2016 data, which reveals that the overwhelming majority of pretrial detainees admitted to New York City jails last year were booked on misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.
The audit also illustrates stark disparities in the population held at lockups around New York City. These facilities house nearly 10,000 people each day. Around 7,600 are being held pretrial and the rest have been convicted and are serving sentences of a year or less. Ninety percent of all pretrial detainees are men, and they’re largely young men of color.