What is the purpose of bail?
Bail is intended to function as an incentive for defendants to return to court by ensuring they will receive their money back if they appear at all court dates. Bail was not created as a form of punishment. The court is required to release defendants without bail if they have been deemed likely to return without financial incentive.
Why help pay bail for others?
While bail was not intended as a form of punishment, it’s certainly used as one. Even one night in jail can place defendants in jeopardy of losing public benefits, healthcare, housing, jobs, and custody of their children. While detained, defendants have no bargaining power or ability to prove their ties to family and community, forcing many to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit. This results in a criminal record that follows them the rest of their lives.
It costs taxpayers $475 per night to detain someone at Rikers Island. It costs us about $2 a night to keep someone out of jail, in their homes and jobs and with their families.