Getting out of jail in New York City will be a little easier thanks to online and by-phone bail payment options now being designed.
People who find themselves behind bars in the city frequently have to wait several days in jail for someone to travel to Rikers Island or another correctional facility to make the cash payment. As defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty in the U.S., those extra days of incarceration are considered unconstitutional by the standards of the Department of Justice.
The new system to simplify and expedite the process by making bail payment possible online, by phone or at a kiosk is expected to be unrolled by spring 2017.
"This is a welcome change that seems basic but could make a big impact and even save lives," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The fact that we haven't already fixed this boggles the mind."
A report made by the city and the nonprofit Center for Court Innovation estimates that the obstacles to paying bail results in 12,000 unnecessary jail stays a year. Only 10 percent of people are able to pay the cash bail at arraignment, but 30 percent pay it within a week of arraignment. This suggests that many people have the cash but not the means of accessing it because of inefficiencies in the current system, the report found.
Some of the research also suggests that even a few extra days in jail are directly correlated to crime recidivism.
“Nobody with the ability to pay bail should sit in jail just because the bail process is an inconvenience,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in news release. “Family members and friends will be able to avoid long lines and traveling during business hours by paying bail online, by phone, or at a kiosk in the courthouse—finally bringing the bail payment process into the 21st century.”
The city is completing contracts with a company specializing in online payments to design a system that is easy to navigate and track for statistical purposes. The project is part of a bigger initiative by the city called Bail Lab that aims to simplify and improve the city’s bail system and reliance on cash money.
Other improvements already initiated through Bail Lab include the installation of ATMs in every courthouse, efforts to reduce fees associated with paying bail, as well as a first-of-its-kind comprehensive online manual to the city's bail system.