By Kevin Deutsch firstname.lastname@example.org
The New York City Council on Tuesday passed legislation to eliminate fees on bail payments made by credit card — a change expected to ease the burden on Bronx families impacted by incarceration.
The bill removes the 2.49% non-refundable fee charged on credit card bail payments made online, and the 8% fee charged on credit card payments made in person at city jails and some courts.
JPay, the corrections-related services and technology company that oversees the city’s electronic bail payment system, has for years profited from the fees. The company has been criticized for what inmate advocates call exploitative charges, which authorities say disproportionality impact New Yorkers of color.
Bronx families already paying thousands of dollars in bail often see several hundred dollars tacked on to the original charge when posting bail for loved ones.
JPay also takes a cut from deposits made to inmate accounts by friends and family members.
Bronx Councilman Andrew Cohen, a member of the Progressive Caucus that backed the legislation, lauded the fee removals.
“Buying your way out of jail is an immoral system that disproportionately benefits the wealthy and punishes low income individuals!” Cohen said. “To add additional fees…is profiteering off our incarceration system and blatantly targets the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”
The legislation, introduced by Councilman Keith Powers and co-sponsored by Councilman Rory Lancman, will now go to to the desk of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is expected to sign it.
The Zero Profits Coalition, an umbrella group of advocacy organizations including The Bronx Defenders and Fines and Fees Justice Center, said in a statement that the law would “eliminate yet another mechanism that extracts revenue from New York’s most marginalized communities. Among the thousands of people who are incarcerated in New York City jails, 88% are Black and/or Latinx, and nearly all experience deep poverty. Even though we oppose all criminal legal fees, it is particularly egregious that these bail fees are only charged to people who have not been convicted of a crime.”
The coalition also argued that the legislation did not go far enough, and that all fees connected to the city’s criminal justice system should be eliminated.