New York Post Exploits Resident To Fearmonger About Bail Reform

The New York Post once again fearmongered about bail reform in a story meant to scare readers and advocate for policies that seek to punish people instead of meeting their basic needs.

Fact Check: Fearmongering

The Briefing

The New York Post once again fearmongered about bail reform in a story meant to scare readers and advocate for policies that seek to punish people instead of meeting their basic needs. 

In a familiar trope, the Post pointed to a person’s history of arrests for alleged low-level crimes to suggest the arrests were a consequence of bail reform. The Post quoted NYPD officials like Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Chief of Department Kenneth Corey, who went on NY1 this week to criticize bail reform by citing the same man’s arrest history.

The reality is that the Post’s story has more to do with our failed approach to public health and safety than it has to do with bail reform. In this case, the man was arrested multiple times within a few months for petit larceny, or stealing property valued at less than $1,000, with no allegations of violence or harm to a person. Multiple arrests for the same alleged low-level offense indicate a person’s basic needs are not being met, not that the person should be jailed, likely on unaffordable bail. 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. 

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.”

In the case of the man whose story is being exploited, the Post would do well to advocate for policies that address people’s basic needs instead of increased pretrial detention.

Jail is not an effective public safety measure

We know that jail is dangerous, dehumanizing, and exacerbates 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 offenses like petit larceny and 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.

Story Link

Story in the New York Post

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