- NY’s Criminal Justice System Revolving Door Spins Out of Control, Taxpayers To Foot The Bill -

NY Chief Judge Lippman Scapegoats NY Bondsmen; Dodges Culpability For NY’s Unfair Bail Practices & Failing Court System; Touts Taxpayer Funded Pretrial Supervision Release As Fair & Cost Effective Remedy To The Issues Plaguing New York Courts
By: The New York Professional Bondsmen & Agents, NYPBA
Feb. 13, 2013 - PRLog -- Breaking News - Brooklyn, New York - Today, George Zouvelos, President of the New York Professional Bondsmen & Agents (The NYPBA), NYPBA’s principle lobbyist for New York’s commercial bail and enforcement industries, and New York State Professional Bondsman, responds to Chief Judge Lippman’s comments, assertions and proposals regarding ‘unfair’ bail practices in New York, made in his state of the New York Judiciary address.

NYPBA’s five year Bondsmen Court Bail Observation study, launched in January 2008, revealed that criminal defendants can languish in jails for a variety of failed public policy reasons that include profound lack of understanding by judges and courts of the bail laws, processes and Bail Bondsmen’s statutory authority.  The study finds that most defendants stuck in jail for a variety of key reasons including the following; constitutionally untimely adjudication of cases; judges utilizing bail as a punitive and not a legitimate pretrial release measure; archaic and ineffective court bail policies and court technologies; failed community based taxpayer funded programs; court under staffing; and, lack of bail instruction and education of judges who overtly and / or in avertedly discriminate against the accused, through arbitrary, capricious and illegal policies and decisions made against New York Professional Bail Bondsmen, the New York commercial bail industry, and the defendants they attempt to bail out of jail.

NYPBA’s investigation reveals the crucial changes that need to immediately be put in effect in order to improve the New York bail system, making same more effective, secure and fair for all.  The Chief Judge and the criminal justice system must address the following; the constitutionally required speedy trials of defendants, the public’s awareness of having the ability to choose bail bond alternative as opposed to the court and agencies promotion bail to be posted only 100% in cash with the jail; the issuance of ‘secure-pass’ court identification to securely identify duly licensed New York Professional Bondsmen in order for same to perform the expedient execution of official court business; the elimination of court discriminatory policies against Bondsmen attempting to post bail bonds with the court that makes Bondsmen wait days to bail defendants sometimes wait to be bailed for days stuck in jail; mandate Judges when ordering bail to do so at the same cash and bond amounts; the elimination of illegal Judge interference with the amount collateral Bondsmen secure for an insurance company bail bond, that is the Bondsman’s sole business decision with clients, as per NYS App. Div. 2nd Dept. NY Slip Op 09430 (2008).

The Chief Judge offered a remedy to unfair bail practices touting that “pretrial detention costs an average of $19,000 per defendant nationally, whereas monitoring a defendant in the community cost less than $4,600."

The NYPBA found that in the 1990’s one such intense program, the VERA Institute Bronx community bail release project was one of the most comprehensive and ‘intense defendant supervised’ publically funded community supervision program ever undertaken in an inner-city.  The Bronx Bail project bailed defendants from jail by bond, escorted them from their release from jail and to all subsequent court appearances, provided frequent drug and alcohol testing, referred criminal defendants to inpatient / outpatient social service programs and sought employment placement.  The program supervised non violent criminal defendants so intensely that each needed to report 7 days a week to the program office.  This was a free service offered for executing bail bonds that were ordered by judges that were for bails that were $10,000 and less.  The Bronx Bail Project lasted more than (3) years, cost millions of dollars, and by VERA’s own account failed.

During the 39 month period in operation, the VERA program provided ‘intense community based’ supervision and support to non violent criminal defendants who could not otherwise obtain release from jail by bail, but were considered flight risks by the Court, and not eligible for release on their own recognizance (ROR).  After supervising someone for 99 days, the Bronx Agency attempted to persuade the court to release the defendant ROR.  However, these attempts were usually unsuccessful.

“VERA’s comprehensive study shockingly reveals that out of the total of 222 persons released into their custody in the Bronx; 110 or (49%) were rearrested and returned to jail by program staff for violations of their private bail contractual conditions, 27 or (21 %) were arrested on new charges committed in the community, 11 or (5%) absconded (fugitive on the run) from justice, and the program was forced to pay 4 forfeitures estimated at $30,000 to $40,000.   Out of 222 persons released to the publically funded intensive supervision program only about 69 made it through to the end---fourteen (14) of these, or 6% received jail sentences.  Overall the VERA intensely supervised inner- city Bronx bail program for non violent offenders had nearly a 70% failure rate,” said Zouvelos.

"If VERA operated a privately run bail bond company in New York today, they would have been out of business the first (3) three months of operation, and not after 39 months,” said Zouvelos.

"Just last week Chief Judge Lippman ordered a Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Patricia DiMango to immediately report to Bronx Supreme Court to oversee the new “blow out” felony court part, to alleviate the unconscionable amount of seriously backlogged felony cases there.  Too little, too late,” said Zouvelos.

“When the criminal courts are backlogged, as they are in the Bronx, criminal cases are not timely adjudicated.  Those who have court ordered bail conditions that cannot be met, stay in jail sometimes for years at the taxpayers’ expense,” said Mr. Julio Pozo, New York Professional Bondsman in the Bronx, NYPBA representative for Bronx and Westchester Counties.

Other barriers faced by the accused familial support systems revealed that alternatives to paying 100% cash bail was offered in criminal arraignments, but were not later disclosed to them by the taxpayer funded agencies, such as the Criminal Justice Agency (CJA) and their ‘court expediters’.  

In addition, for decades, Judges in New York had ignored the mandates of New York Criminal Procedure law 520.10 and were only fixing cash bail alone.  This illegal policy by judges supposedly ended recently when the New York Court of Appeals decided March 22, 2012 in People &c. ex rel. Shaun McManus v.Martin F. Horn. “Prior to this decision, those who could not afford to post cash bail alone languished in jail and / or plead guilty to crimes they may have not committed," said Zouvelos.

NYPBA findings should be the top priority for the Chief Judge if he is truly sincere in reducing criminal defendants ‘languishing’ in jail, addressing the ‘unfair’ bail system, improving court efficiency and reducing taxpayer waste. In the Chief Judge’s state of the Judiciary address, he conveniently chose to ignore well known and key issues with bail, and focused on a ‘flavor of the month’ response, that ‘scapegoated’ New York Professional Bail Bondsmen. “In New York we have a famous adage that applies here, ‘The fish always stinks from the head down',” said Zouvelos.
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Tags:Bail Bonds, Cash Bail, Chief Judge Lippman, NYPBA, Zouvelos, Bondsman, Pretrial
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