It’s not often that an interview begins with your subject saying “ass-backwards.”
Even less often is when that subject is the chief judge of a state. But Judge Jonathan Lippman of New York is known for being, shall we say, a colorful speaker. At least when it comes to one of his favorite subjects: commercial bail reform.
He is set to retire at the end of the year and is instituting a series of measures to change the way bail works in the state of New York. He’s letting judges use more pretrial release, ankle bracelet-monitoring and work-release, among other things.
He wants more low-level offenders to stay out of jail instead of in jail before trial.
“What you do have to do,” he said, “is flip that presumption immediately. Change this idea that people should be incarcerated at great cost to the taxpayer because of how much money they have in their pocket.”
New Yorkers spend about $42 million a year to incarcerate nonfelony defendants, according to Human Rights Watch. And 50,000 people sit in city jails because they can’t afford to pay bail or secure bond. It’s an issue that’s come up in the news a lot lately.
Lippman has been particularly active after the death of Kalief Browder, who committed suicide at 22 after being held on Rikers Island for three years.
Several states have already abolished commercial bail. Lippman wants New York to be the next.