THE BRONX — Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is calling on the state to abolish or significantly reform the bail system after the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization posted $100,000 bail for Pedro Hernandez.
"The case of Pedro Hernandez highlights the need for significant bail reform, if not the elimination of the money bail system altogether, in the State of New York," the statement reads. He added that bail is applied "inconsistently' and that "for low-income New Yorkers, the bail system has been prohibitive and punitive."
Pedro Hernandez has been compared to Kalief Browder, who committed suicide after spending three years in jail, mostly in solitary confinement, awaiting trial on charges for stealing a backpack — a crime he said he didn't commit.
Both Hernandez and Browder were teens when they were arrested and held at Rikers Island, both were forced to spend their time before trial behind bars because their families could not afford the high bail set and both refused plea deals.
Jessica Perez, Hernandez's mother, said that at a certain point Hernandez wanted to kill in himself in jail, but still declined the option “to plead guilty to something he did not do,” she said.
"The actions taken by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights demonstrate that, for too many, bail is simply out of reach. For Pedro Hernandez, for Kalief Browder, and for the thousands of individuals currently waiting for trial on Rikers Island and elsewhere, the status quo must be changed," the borough president's statement reads.
The statement goes on to say that the borough president supports recommendations on bail reform made by the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform.
One suggestion in the report by that commission is that pretrial supervision become the default for people charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, as well as some young people charged with more serious crimes. Another is that the city should use financial assessments in determining how much bail defendants can afford. It also advises that the bail payment process be simplified to reduce the number of short jail stays and says that, ultimately, New York should eliminate money bail altogether.
"A person’s freedom should not be determined by what’s in his or her wallet,” the report says.