The Manhattan District Attorney directed staff not to ask for bail in many nonviolent cases – while acknowledging the policy could result in additional “low level” crimes.
The directive comes in reaction to the ongoing chaos at Rikers Island, and will be in effect for “at least the next few weeks,” a Monday memo to trial division attorneys in DA Cy Vance’s office said.
Attorneys should avoid asking for bail when “the threat of confinement under these conditions outweighs the threat to the community,” said the memo, from Executive Assistant DA Joan Illuzzi Orbon.
“In light of the conditions faced by those individuals detained at Rikers, we have endeavored to ensure that our practices are as equitable as possible, even though we understand that releasing some individuals may, unfortunately, lead to additional low level crime,” Orbon wrote. “Thank you all for your seemingly endless flexibility and for always tirelessly advocating for crime victims as we continue to respond to various crises.”
The memo tells prosecutors not to ask for bail when the accused doesn’t “demonstrate recent violence” or in theft crimes that don’t “involve the intrusion into someone’s actual living space.”
An email to trial division attorneys on Tuesday morning added that the office will still ask for supervised release and other non-cash conditions.
The email listed three criteria that must be all be met: the crime is nonviolent and doesn’t implicate risk of physical harm to anyone, the defendant doesn’t have violent offenses or sex crimes in the last 10 years, and the defendant hasn’t failed to appear in the case.
“The situation continues to evolve and we will adapt with it, which we do best when we all stay in contact about issues as they arise,” said the email, from Assistant DA Andrew Warshawer.
Politicians touring Rikers have noted poor inmate conditions while there has been intense scrutiny on violent incidents, staffing issues and 11 deaths at the facility so far this year.
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