A news story about the tragic death of a child in the Bronx falsely connected the incident to bail reform and suggested a range of failed solutions to address America's opioid crisis.
A news story about the tragic death of a child in the Bronx falsely connected the incident to bail reform and suggested a range of failed solutions to address the opioid crisis. The case has nothing to do with bail reform, and represents another disingenuous effort from pro-carceral voices to advocate for punitive policies. The story reflects an archaic and flawed logic that more drug arrests mean more safety, when the facts show that tough-on-crime policies have only exacerbated our country’s challenges with drugs and substance use.
Two people have been charged with murder – a bail-eligible charge – in this case, plus federal drug charges after the death of one-year-old Nicholas Dominici. There is no evidence to suggest the people arrested in this case had any open criminal cases at the time of their arrest. This case has nothing to do with bail reform.
Nonetheless, the story quotes a “trial attorney” – a regular and controversial Fox News contributor – who lies about the impact of New York’s bail reform laws by claiming that judges need more discretion to prevent similar tragedies. Judicial discretion has nothing to do with this case. Under New York’s bail reform laws, judges can decide to set bail or impose conditions on people charged with certain crimes. A judge in this case decided to hold the people charged without bail.
The idea that people accused of selling drugs are “exploiting” bail reform is ridiculous and ignores the fact that punitive war-on-drugs policies ensnare thousands of New Yorkers struggling with drug addiction themselves. This approach subjects people struggling with substance use to pretrial incarceration, which is harmful and often deadly. People incarcerated pretrial at Rikers Island are dying from overdoses at an alarming rate, more than twice the national average.
Marvin Pines, a 65-year-old man charged with selling drugs, died at Rikers in February after staff administered Narcan twice. Seven jail staff members were suspended after Pines’ death, and reporting indicates Pines was sick for hours as staff failed to check in on him. He was found unresponsive in a bathroom by another incarcerated person. His bail was $25,000, which amounted to a death sentence.
The story also quotes a prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, who states her unlawful belief that bail should be used as a deterrent to crime. Brennan is wrong: pretrial detention is not an effective deterrent at all – in fact, pretrial detention can increase the likelihood of future arrests. That is why the statutory purpose of bail in New York is to ensure someone who is presumed legally innocent will return to court. Putting more people in jail unnecessarily has never helped any society and should never be thought of as a solution.
News Nation highlights a decrease in drug arrests to attempt to prove that more carceral policies will produce more safety. Their use of arrest data reflects a broken logic that more arrests mean we are all safer. If that were true, the United States would be the safest country in the world.
The opioid crisis presents an immense challenge to policymakers, public safety experts, and impacted communities. But we know that tough-on-crime policies are not the solution. The United States’ 50-year war on drugs gave rise to the most incarcerated nation in the world, but it did not reduce the demand for drugs, instead increasing stigma, marginalization, and danger. We know that putting people in prison to minimize the possibility of reoffense does not work. Enforcement of drug laws is racist, disproportionately affects Black and Brown Americans, and devastates communities.
The issue has nothing to do with bail reform or arrest data. In many jurisdictions that do not have bail reform, drug overdose rates are higher than the rate in New York. The opioid crisis is a national problem that will not be solved by putting more people in jail for longer.
Link to News Nation story