Setting aside $1.4 million for a citywide defendant bail fund — something pushed for by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx) in her State of the City address — is included in the $78.5 billion plan announced late Monday night.
The fund, which will cover bails set at $2,000 or less for low-level misdemeanors, will come from City Council coffers. It is meant to help reduce the detainee population on Rikers Island.
Mark-Viverito said in a joint announcement with Mayor de Blasio that now, only 15 percent of detainees can pay bails set at $500 or less, leading to longer times in jail.
“This bail fund is critical and will save the city in incarceration costs and it works,” she said, adding it will “alter trajectories,” particularly for young men of color.
Mark-Viverito said the fund would “pay for itself” and conversations are being had with potential private funders.
De Blasio said he agrees with the speaker’s core points, saying the move is “based on a desire to keep people out of Rikers Island who shouldn’t be there.”
The mayor added that there will be a screening process to ensure a defendant does not have a history of violent offenses.
The new fund comes amid several reforms at the island jail, which has come under scrutiny in recent months regarding its treatment of teenaged inmates and detainees in solitary confinement, among others.
On Monday, the de Blasio administration reportedly agreed to implement several reforms, such as restricting guards from striking inmates in the head, adding cameras and accepting a federal monitor to oversee Rikers Island.
“This comprehensive framework requires the city to implement sweeping operational changes to fix a broken system and dismantle a decades-long culture of violence,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement about the changes.