“Here we are locking people up for want of a couple of hundred dollars,” said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel with the domestic program of the advocacy group.
“Pretrial liberty should not be conditioned on the size of your bank account,” Ms. Fellner said.
The report raised the possibility that many of the poorer defendants pleaded guilty at arraignment for sentences with no jail time, simply to avoid being behind bars while awaiting trial.
“The client is placed with a choice of staying out of jail and being on Rikers Island and fighting their case,” said Robin Steinberg, the director of the Bronx Defenders, a nonprofit group that provides legal representation to Bronx residents charged with crimes. “Almost anybody would plead guilty. It creates a pressure on poor people in the criminal justice system for them to plead guilty without regard to whether they were guilty or not guilty.”