As part of the “Robert F. Kennedy Mass Bail Out,” a four-week action to pay the bail for hundreds of women and minors detained in NYC, members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus gathered on Thursday at the Brooklyn House of Detention to deposit bail for an incarcerated woman. 

The Mass Bail Out is a collaborative effort of over 30 criminal justice organizations, grassroots groups and formerly incarcerated people to highlight the criminalization of poverty through the money bail system. Councilmembers Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Antonio Reynoso and Jumaane Williams joined the action Thursday morning.

“No one should have their right to presumed innocence stripped of them because of their economic status,” said Councilmember Antonio Reynoso. “The Robert F. Kennedy’s Mass Bail Out will bring justice to women and children who have unfairly been stuck in our prison system. I hope that this action is the beginning of a conversation to bring about comprehensive reforms to our city’s bail and prison system.”

Currently, 80 percent of the New Yorkers in jails have not been convicted of a crime, yet remain incarcerated only because they cannot afford bail. Additionally, the state’s system of cash bail, according to the caucus, further deepens racial disparities in the criminal justice system as 87 percent of people incarcerated in NYC are Black and/or Latinx.

Councilmembers Brad Lander (left), Alicka Ampry Samuel (middle) and Jumaane Williams (right). Photo credit: Iris Zalun / Courtesy NYC Progressive Caucus

“I am proud to support this action, providing relief to people who have no other options,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams. “But it is a temporary action in need of a long-term solution to a systemic problem. We need to put an end to the discriminatory practice of cash bail, which perpetuates incarceration for low-income communities and people of color.”

Thursday’s coalition was initially unsuccessful to post bail for the woman they intended to release because she was “in transit” to court. A representative was expected to return in the afternoon to post bail.

“Because paying bail in NYC is as problematic as the bail system itself, the caucus was delayed in posting bail this morning, and a representative will have to return in the afternoon to post bail,” the Progressive Caucus explained in a statement. “The procedural delay was caused because the incarcerated individual was in transit during the initial attempt to post bail. Because of DOC’s antiquated systems, bail is not able to be processed during transit.”

The RFK Mass Bail Out, which launched at the beginning of October, will continue throughout the month — or as long as funds last.

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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