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Bail Process Varies by Borough, Analysis Shows

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Jonathan Lippman, New York State’s chief judge, called last week for fundamental revisions in how bail is set. Among other changes, he would let judges take into account whether defendants pose a threat to the public, rather than only whether they are a flight risk.

An analysis by the New York City Criminal Justice Agency found wide variations in whether defendants in felony cases are released at arraignment, detained until bail is paid or denied bail altogether.

The proportion detained ranged from 44 percent in the Bronx to 62 percent in Manhattan. (It was 56 percent in Queens, 54 percent on Staten Island and 53 percent in Brooklyn).

The agency assesses each defendant’s likelihood of returning to court and either recommends they be released, cautions that they pose a moderate risk of not returning or suggests they not be released. How judges follow those recommendations also varied.

In the Bronx, 47 percent of the felony defendants rated as high risks were released anyway, compared with 20 percent in Manhattan (and 31 percent on Staten Island, 30 percent in Brooklyn and 24 percent in Queens).

Over all, in 2011, 8 percent of defendants who were recommended for release failed to return to court at the appointed time. Among those not recommended for release, 22 percent failed to return.