For misdemeanor cases in New York, 99.6 percent of convictions come from guilty pleas. The primary strategy that prosecutors use for encouraging guilty pleas is the threat of bail, which a majority of defendants can’t afford. Rather than wait in jail for a trial, people often plead guilty just to go home, to care for a child or to avoid losing a job; many are innocent, or have been stopped and searched unlawfully. In short, bail denies too many citizens the basic right to have their cases tried in court.
Frustrated by this issue, a group of public defenders in Brooklyn established the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund (BCBF), a rotating fund that would post bail on people’s behalf. By giving poor defendants a chance to fight low-level criminal charges, the fund would keep Brooklyn families together, productive, and stable. Their first priority was to develop a client screening process that would ensure fund participants were not a threat to the community and likely to return to court. Reboot partnered with BCBF to help establish a sound and fair process rooted in the motivations and realities of both clients and court actors like judges, defenders, and prosecutors.