Legislation advances criminal justice reform
New York, NY, April 9, 2019 – The New York City Council today passed legislation to eliminate fees associated with paying bail by credit card in New York City. Introduction 1199, introduced by Council Members Keith Powers and Rory Lancman, removes the 2.49% non-refundable fee charged on credit card bail payments made online, and the 8% fee charged on credit card payments made in-person. The bill passed the City Council 43 – 1.
“With the passage of Introduction 1199, New York City takes a positive step forward in criminal justice reform. Fees on bail create unnecessary financial hardship on those in the justice system and their families, simply because they do not have cash on-hand. By eliminating the fees associated with paying bail, we eliminate an unnecessary financial hardship that has for so long been associated with the justice system,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “As bail reform occurs in Albany, it is important that the city works to fill gaps in these various injustices. I thank my colleagues in the City Council for their support and look forward to continue working to progress in reform.”
“The cost of justice in New York City is outrageous. Every day, New Yorkers are paying excessive and unnecessary fees in order to free their loved one from the horrors of Rikers Island,” said Council Member Rory Lancman. “I am proud that the City Council today is taking action in order to correct this injustice.”
According to the Bronx Freedom Fund, only 1 in 10 people in New York City are able to pay bail at arraignment. The City’s Independent Budget Office estimates the cost of incarcerating individuals who cannot afford to pay bail is approximately $116 million. This legislation alleviates the burden of excess fees, so no entity profits from an individual’s time in custody.
“The credit card bail payment option should not financially exploit New Yorkers who have contact with our criminal justice system,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “Adding additional fees on credit card bail payments unnecessarily inflates the cost of freedom preying on families at their most vulnerable. I am proud to co-sponsor Intro 1199 to eliminate these fees and I applaud Council Members Powers and Lancman for introducing this important legislation.”
“We cannot address comprehensive criminal justice reform without working to overhaul our current bail processes,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “Buying your way out of jail is an immoral system that disproportionately benefits the wealthy and punishes low income individuals! To add additional fees, ranging from a 2.49% – 8% fee on cash bail posted via credit card in person or online, is profiteering off our incarceration system and blatantly targets the most vulnerable New Yorkers. I support Intro 1199, and I commend Zero Profits Coalition, Council Member Powers and co-sponsor Council Member Lancman on this piece of legislation – I think this will be a big step in the right direction!”
“New York City’s bail system is long overdue for reform,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “A 2% fee may not sound like much, but for those who are already struggling to come up with money to pay the average misdemeanor bail of $1,000 or felony bail of $5,000, an extra $20-$100 can mean the difference between spending days in jail or not. It is unacceptable that in a progressive place like New York City we have policies that prey on the poor by criminalizing not having cash. Introduction 1199 is a positive step in the right direction reforming some of the unfair and vindictive policies of the bail system. Thank you to Council Member Powers for taking on this issue and working to reform it. We must begin by passing Introduction 1199.”
“New Yorkers are entitled to a bail payment system that is 100% transparent and straightforward, without added fees and unnecessary restrictions,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “Additional processing fees and restrictions on check use disproportionately impact low-income individuals and families, who are already at a severe disadvantage when interacting with the criminal justice system. Thank you to Council Member Powers for fighting for a more equitable bail system, and for his leadership on criminal justice reform.”
“Extra fees on bail are nothing more than a tax on some of the most vulnerable members of our community, who can least afford to shoulder the added financial burden,” said Council Member Mark Treyger. “No New Yorker should have to choose between paying rent and bringing a loved one – individuals who have yet to be convicted of any crime – home. I’m proud to join Council Member Powers in sponsoring this legislation to end a practice that serves only to perpetuate inequity in our city.”
“It is unfair that New York City holds thousands of people, who have not been found guilty of a crime, behind bars because they cannot afford bail,” said Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel. “Families should be able to post bail without further constraints of having to pay transaction fees, which poses as an additional financial burden; especially in low-income communities of color. This is why I am co-sponsoring Intro 1199, which would remove the 2.49% fee charged on credit card payments of cash bail made online, and the 8% fee charged on credit card payments made in-person.”
“No company should be profiting off of a person’s need for a fair trial, and no family should have to face undue barriers in trying to bring their loved ones home,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I applaud Council Members Powers and Lancman for advancing today’s legislation and bringing our communities more justice in the process.”
In a statement, the Zero Profits Coalition shared: “The Zero Profits coalition applauds the New York City Council for eliminating the exploitative fees associated with paying bail by credit card. While Intro. 1199 does not end the discriminatory system of money bail, it will lessen some of the financial inequity it creates. Credit card bail payment fees are only one of the myriad of ways that corporations and the City profit off of New Yorkers targeted by the criminal legal system, disproportionately working class Black and brown communities. Until we end wealth-based detention, this bill ensures that people aren’t being further exploited simply because of how they pay bail. We recognize Council Members Keith Powers and Rory Lancman for their continued efforts to de-commercialize the criminal legal system and urge Mayor de Blasio to sign Intro. 1199 into law.”
Introduction 1199 will go into effect for online payments six months after becoming law. This legislation adds to a collection of local laws the Council has passed regarding bail, included regulations that focus on making it easier to post bail, ensuring timely release, and providing resources on how to pay bail. The Criminal Justice Committee, which Council Member Powers chairs, has provided oversight of the Department of Correction (DOC) with regard to compliance of these laws. He also led the committee that passed a bill to eliminate phone call fees for incarcerated individuals, marking a significant achievement for New York City.
Introduction 1199 eliminates non-refundable fees from the bail system for all cases. Bail reform passed in Albany this month, including legislation to eliminate money bail for misdemeanor cases and non-violent offenses that will go into effect in January 2020.
About Council Member Keith Powers
Keith Powers is Council Member for the East Side of Manhattan, covering Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, Tudor City, East Midtown, Midtown West, and part of the Upper East Side. Council Member Powers serves as Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, and is vice co-chair of budget of the Progressive Caucus.