The city’s five district attorneys were lambasted Monday by prominent Democrats in Congress for worsening the situation at Rikers Island by regularly demanding “excessive” cash bail for people convicted of nonviolent offences.
Carolyn Maloney and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both members of the New York City Council, complained that the city’s top prosecutors were not doing enough to remedy the circumstances at Rikers Island. Overcrowding, a shortage of personnel, and unsanitary conditions have plagued the facility.
In the letter, Ocasio-Cortez and Maloney stated, “The congestion in New York City’s jails is attributable, in part, to prosecutors who continue to seek high cash bail, resulting in rising rates of imprisonment, particularly for low-income defendants.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a fellow Democrat from Maryland, joined the two congressmen. Other lawmakers, notably Mayor-elect Eric Adams, have backed amending 2019 bail reform proposals in order to meet mounting crime concerns. The city’s prosecutors, according to the Democrats in Congress, are still abusing the money justice system.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance asked $15,000 cash bail for a homeless man charged with a misdemeanor in the previous several months. According to the letter, Staten Island DA Mike McMahon requested $5,000 for a defendant accused of stealing a lunch and three beverages from a grocery shop.
Even as activists and political leaders shouted the alarm about conditions in city cells, Maloney, AOC, and Raskin questioned why the DAs made the bail requests. This year, at least 14 individuals have died while being held in local cells.
Many of the efforts suggested by the lawmakers are supported by Vance’s office, according to a spokesperson. According to the Queens District Attorney, a variety of strategies have been developed to keep offenders away from Rikers without risking public safety. A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office said the agency would be delighted to update lawmakers on the Rikers Island problem. The other DAs did not reply to requests for comment right away.
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