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Dems demand answers from NYC prosecutors on use of ‘excessive’ cash bail

Three House Democrats sent a letter to the Big Apple’s five district attorneys Monday demanding answers on how they use cash bail, saying it’s contributing to the continued “humanitarian crisis” on Rikers Island. 

The letter, despatched by Manhattan Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, mentioned the lawmakers have “grave concerns that excessive bail amounts” are forcing detainees to languish in unsafe metropolis lockups just because they can’t afford to pay. 

“High bail amounts lead to a two-tiered system of justice, with those who can afford bail being able to escape the inhumane conditions at pretrial detention facilities such as Rikers Island while those who cannot afford bail are forced to remain,” the letter acknowledged. 

“Over the last few months, conditions on Rikers Island have deteriorated drastically, raising concerns about the safety and security of staff and detainees. Overcrowding and staffing shortages on the island have led to violent incidents within Rikers Island facilities, calling into question whether anyone can be safely held there without immediate changes.” 

The Post lately revealed the dire situations inside a since-closed consumption facility on Rikers Island the place detainees had been crammed physique to physique in squalid situations for days on finish — and compelled to alleviate themselves in plastic baggage. 

 Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) speaks on the fifth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) was one of three House Democrats who despatched a letter to New York’s 5 district attorneys.
congress.gov by way of Getty Images

Since final April, the jail inhabitants on Rikers has skyrocketed to about 5,400 and amid a staffing crunch plaguing the jail, detainees have had diminished entry to medical care, leisure actions and different applications, the representatives famous within the letter. There’ve additionally been 14 in-custody deaths to date this yr, six of which had been suicides.

They blamed the overcrowding partially on metropolis prosecutors “who continue to seek excessive cash bail” and wish every workplace to hunt new bail hearings and launch detainees who’re charged with misdemeanors or non-violent felonies and people who have elevated well being dangers. 

“Condemning thousands of individuals to languish in an environment plagued by persistent overcrowding and mounting violence as they await trial is not acceptable and risks violating the federal civil rights of these individuals,” the reps wrote. 

Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York and chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, together with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamie Raskin, demanded answers on how district attorneys use cash bail.
Ting Shen/Bloomberg by way of Getty Images

“If these conditions are not addressed, federal intervention may be necessary to protect detainees from additional harm,” the letter warned. 

Each DA has till Dec. 10 to ship a response to a collection of questions, together with what steps every workplace has taken to cut back the jail inhabitants, how processing delays are being addressed and what standards are examined when figuring out which defendants are eligible for supervised launch. 

In response, the Manhattan DA’s Office mentioned it’s reviewing the letter and can reply however famous it has already taken measures to cut back the jail inhabitants by asking prosecutors to not request bail in sure non-violent circumstances and by releasing greater than two dozen defendants going through felony fees. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Representative for New York's 14th congressional district, speaks during an event at the US Climate Action Centre during COP26 on November 09, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Carolyn Maloney and Jamie Raskin mentioned cash bail is contributing to the continued “humanitarian crisis” on Rikers Island.
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The Staten Island DA’s Office mentioned it’s reviewing the letter. Representatives for the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn DAs didn’t instantly return requests for remark. 

The Democrats’ letter follows an identical one despatched final month on behalf of elected officers and public defenders in New York.

In January 2020, the New York Legislature overhauled the bail system, eliminating cash bail for almost all of non-violent offenses. The measure was rolled again months later to incorporate extra crimes and situations through which bail might be imposed.

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