Three plaintiffs have filed a proposed class action against the City of New York in an attempt to address the city’s “hopelessly broken” and “confusing and perplexing” process for paying bail and being released from detention. The lawsuit, claiming the well-documented problems with New York City’s bail payment and release process have gone unaddressed for years, alleges thousands of presumably innocent detainees have had their constitutional rights violated by being jailed for hours or days despite the existence of court orders entitling their release upon posting bail.
“Each day, hundreds of criminal defendants have bail set by judges in court across New York City. The concept is simple: if the defendant can post the amount fixed by the judge, he or she is entitled to be released from detention,” the case says. “The reality is far more complicated.”
According to the case, detained individuals, as well as friends, family and other groups, who present themselves at NYC Department of Correction facilities with bail money are often told, among other excuses, that computers and fax machines are down or that staff is unavailable. Even after bail payment is accepted, the lawsuit continues, detainees are often left to languish for a day or more even though a judicial order has granted their release. As a result of such a difficult bail-posting process, many criminal defendants are unnecessarily transferred from to jail, where an intake process can last between 12 and 22 hours, the lawsuit says.