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for the New York 2019 Bail Elimination Act (S.2101A) 

Human Rights Watch urges the New York Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign comprehensive bail reform this session. We strongly support the Bail Elimination Act (S.2101A - Gianaris),[1] which would end money bail, decarcerate jails across New York State, protect the presumption of innocence, and strengthen due process.[2]

Of the more than 20,000 people held in New York’s local jails every day, nearly 70% are pretrial.[3] They have not been convicted, but remain incarcerated - separated from their families and loved ones - because of New York’s unjust and discriminatory bail system. Current bail practices violate constitutional rights, wreak havoc on the lives of impacted people, and fuel the jail crisis across New York State.

Pretrial incarceration undermines the most basic protection of our legal system: the presumption of innocence. Rather than afforded due process, tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers each year are treated as guilty until proven innocent. Locked away on little more than an accusation, our loved ones and neighbors lose their jobs, their homes and custody of their children. Racial and economic disparities are endemic to this system and the consequences severe. Because money bail ties liberty to wealth, low-income people or those who cannot afford bail are criminalized and languish in jail pretrial.

Black New Yorkers are less than half as likely to be released the same day their bail was set as white New Yorkers.[4] For immigrants, an inability to pay bail can lead to deportation.[5] Pretrial incarceration also contributes to the coercion of plea deals, leading to unjust case outcomes and the forfeiture of a constitutional right to trial. In addition to the devastating impact on individuals and families, New York’s jail crisis comes at a high cost to taxpayers. Across New York State, the jail system costs over 2.5 billion dollars annually.[6]

In 2019, New York must pass bail legislation that protects the constitutional and human rights of all New Yorkers, eliminates poverty and race-based jailing, and vastly reduces the number of people incarcerated pretrial. The Bail Elimination Act (S.2101A) is the strongest bail legislation in the country. It would:

  • Eliminate money bail, ensuring that freedom in not tied to wealth;
  • Decarcerate jails, vastly reducing the number of people incarcerated pretrial;
  • Guarantee pretrial liberty in the vast majority of cases, protecting the presumption of innocence and right to freedom;
  • Ensure the constitutional and due process rights of all New Yorkers, requiring individualized, evidence-based hearings and speedy trial safeguards
  • Protect against racially-biased risk assessment instruments, harmful technologies, and mass community surveillance.

Human Rights Watch urges the legislature to pass and the Governor to sign the Bail Elimination Act (S.2101A) without delay. If you have any questions, please contact feel free to contact us.

Laura Pitter


Deputy Director, US Program
Human Rights Watch

John Raphling


Senior Researcher, US Program
Human Rights Watch

[2] John Raphling and Deanna Hoskins, “The right kind of bail reform: New York must learn from California's bad example,” Daily News, March 4, 2019, (accessed March 18, 2019).

[3] “New York State Jail Population. 10 Year Trends: 2009 – 2018,” New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, Jan 28, 2019, (accessed March 18, 2019).

[4] Presume Innocent for a Price: The Impact of Cash Bail Across Eight New York Counties, New York Civil Liberties Union, March 2018,, (accessed March 18, 2019).

[5] Angel Reyes, “How cash bail ruins immigrants’ lives,” Newsday, January 1, 2019, (accessed March 18, 2019).

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