New York Post Spreads Misinformation About Bail Reform

The New York Post published yet another misleading and divisive story calculated to direct anger and hatred toward people in need of help and away from the failures of our current, misguided punishment-based approach to public health.

Fact Check: Misleading

The Briefing

The New York Post published yet another misleading and divisive story calculated to direct anger and hatred toward people in need of help and away from the failures of our current, misguided punishment-based approach to public health. 

The Post wrote about a New York resident’s history of arrests, suggesting his most recent arrests were a consequence of bail reform. This is false. If anything, this case underscores the failures of our criminal legal system and the need for transformative change.

First, a person’s repeated contact with the criminal legal system is a sign of the system’s failure, not, as the Post suggests,  a sign of the need for increased contact. As Dr. Jonathan Giftos, the former Clinical Director for Substance Use Treatment in NYC jails, states, “We have to stop blaming bail reform for failures of our social safety net and we must recognize the previous approach failed in much more traumatic ways.” 

In a similar incident from 2020, where a man’s 137-case-long history was exploited to discredit bail reform, Dr. Ross MacDonald, the chief medical officer for healthcare services in New York City jails, noted that if 137 arrests would not deter this man, the 138th wouldn’t either. Each arrest costs thousands of taxpayer dollars while doing nothing to address the probable root causes of such behavior: unstable housing, substance use disorders, mental illness, cognitive impairment, and/or trauma. 

As Dr. MacDonald explained, “The money spent on 138 arrests could have paid for permanent supportive housing about 110 busts ago, but here the media advocates for a return to a policy that is literal insanity—expecting the 139th or 140th to be the one that fixes his problem.”

Bail reform had nothing to do with this case

Second, in this particular case, the man’s record of arrest dates back over twenty years to 2000, meaning that many, if not most of these arrests, predated bail reform entirely. Moreover, the recent incidents cited in the article are examples of attempted petty theft from major chain stores, in which nothing was actually stolen. In the wake of a devastating pandemic that upended people’s lives and economic security, the Post should be pointing towards real solutions that address the root causes of crime, not preying on personal desperation. Unfortunately this is a pattern for the Post. 

Jail is not an effective public safety measure

If we truly care about public health and safety, we need to follow the facts, not fear. We know that carceral policies like pretrial incarceration can exacerbate drivers of crime. By destabilizing and disrupting people’s lives, pretrial incarceration increases the likelihood of future arrests and undermines the health and safety of individuals, families, and their communities. 

Prior to bail reform, individuals charged with shoplifting would often spend at least a week behind bars because they could not buy their freedom, separated from their families and their support system while being exposed to violent and dangerous conditions in jail. Upon release, they would not be given access to financial assistance or other necessary resources that might mitigate future incidents. If jail were an effective public safety measure, people would not continue to commit crimes after release. 

Relying on a revolving-door justice system comes at a massive human and financial cost. Bail reform has already saved millions of taxpayer dollars and protected the freedom of more than 180,000 people awaiting trial, allowing them to stay with their families and maintain their employment as they challenge their arrest and fight for fair outcomes. Eliminating excessive bail is not only a constitutional mandate but a clear public good—and so far, a resounding public policy success

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