Bail & Pre-Trial Incarceration

Before the 2019 bail reforms, more than two-thirds of the approximately 25,000 people locked in local jails across New York were detained pre-trial, simply because they could not afford bail. Black people were twice as likely as white people to spend at least one night in jail on unaffordable bail. Even one night in jail can upend people’s lives. People can miss work and lose their jobs, housing, and custody of their children, go without their medicine, and, tragically, even die behind bars. For these reasons, many will accept a plea deal, regardless of guilt or innocence, just to get out of jail.

New bail laws have ensured that low-income people get the same right to a presumption of innocence that the wealthy have always had. These laws reduced jail populations in New York by more than 40%, enabling local governments to reallocate funds to meet community needs. However, after months of baseless fear-mongering by law enforcement agencies, partial rollbacks to the new laws in 2020 undermined this progress and significantly increased pre-trial detention rates. Moreover, courts have failed to adhere to critical due process protections that should prevent people from being in jail simply because they cannot afford bail. We continue to fight for the pre-trial freedom rights of all New Yorkers.



For more on media negligence on coverage of New York bail reform, view this report.


For more on bail reform in New York City, view this report.


For more on the impact of cash bail on New Yorkers, view this report.

An illustration of a judge’s hand banging a gavel against a wooden base.

Demand Decarceration

Over 80% of the total NYC jail population are held pre-trial, many held only because they cannot afford bail. Follow the new advocacy project, Crisis at Rikers, to track the number of new people sent to NYC jails each week and to learn about what must be done to decarcerate.