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Charities to Play Bail Bondsman Role

Monday, July 23, 2012

Charities will soon be allowed to post bail for the poor and indigent. A new law recently signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo allows charities to be authorized and regulated by the Department of Financial Services, the same state agency that oversees bail bondsman.

Only those charged with non-violent misdemeanors with bails set at $2,000 or less will be eligible for the bail assistance from non-profits.

Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera sponsored the legislation and said too many people plead guilty to minor infractions because they can't afford bail and don't want to be sent to Rikers Island. "So we want to be able to give these people the choice, and in the case of charitable bail organizations, the opportunity to be able to post bail on behalf of these individuals," said Rivera, whose district includes East Tremont and the University Heights section of the Bronx.

According to the most recent statistics from the New York City Criminal Justice Agency, more than 52,000 people had bail set at their arraignments in 2010, but only about 12 percent were able to post bail. And 40 percent of bails were set at $1,000 or less.

While commercial bond agencies charge premiums and service fees, charities will not be allowed to do the same. The law is expected to take affect in three months.

Rivera said he sponsored the legislation after realizing a charity bail fund shut down after questions arose over whether it could function without the same authorizations as a bail bondsman.

Robin Steinberg of the Bronx Defenders helped create what's called the Bronx Freedom Fund. She said turnstile jumping and minor drug possession cases with bails set as low as $250 were the typical kinds of infractions the fund would assist with.

"These are the kinds of cases where there's no alternative for poor people to get access to bail because bondsman typically won't actually take cases that are that small," Steinberg said.

The fund ran for 18 months —between 2007 and 2009 — and served 150 clients with 95 percent of them making good on court dates, according to Steinberg. Now that the law has been passed, she's hoping to reinstate the fund.

Rivera said he hoped the new law would lead to more organizations creating charity bail funds.

"The purpose of the bill has always been to make the system more just," he said.

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Comments [3]

Henry from Bronx

Sounds fishy to me.....bondsmen go get their fugitive if they blow off court just like you see on tv. They appear to be pretty effective in getting their people back to justice. What will these charities do when the people they bond out blow off going to court? Will they go out and get them like "Dog" the bounty hunter? Will they have to pay the bond to the state? Who will monitor who they get out and what's in place to make sure they have skin in the game?

Jul. 27 2012 11:58 AM
Ray Krebs from Atlanta GA

The recent article "Charities to Play Bail Bondsman Role" seems incomplete, in that no comment was given regarding what happens when that 5% of the populations does not appear. Does the charity have any responsibilities? Do the charities have any criteria for selecting who they help? Will they release defendants that have repeatedly failed to go to court?

Jul. 26 2012 04:26 PM
wheryman

Interesting concept of allowing a charity to provide bail for minor offenses. What happens to the next level up of people who do not qualify for the charity to step in. What relief do they encounter. None I suspect.
Do you not think that some thought must be given to those who encounter the same situation but can afford subway fare. We have to do all we can to depopulate our jails.

Jul. 23 2012 07:43 AM

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