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Report: Bail penalizes NYC’s poor defendants

NEW YORK CITY — Thousands of people arrested each year on minor charges in New York City cannot afford to post bail and on average spend 16 days in jail while awaiting trial, according to a new report by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

Most of the defendants were accused of low-level offenses such as shoplifting, turnstile jumping, trespassing, drug possession and prostitution, the group said.

The 70-page report, “The Price of Freedom: Bail and Pretial Detention of Low Income Nonfelony Defendants in New York City,” was released Thursday.

It said more than 16,000 non-felony defendants who had bail set at $1,000 or less in 2008 were unable to post. That’s more than eight in 10 of the people whose bail was set at the low amounts. But more than three-quarters of all non-felony defendants were released on their own recognizance, the report said.