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Residents of the Bronx jailed on misdemeanorcharges who are unable to make their bail now have another option to lengthy pre-conviction jail stays thanks to The Bronx Freedom Fund. Instead of languishing in jail for months on what are often minor drug charges, defendants can be referred for bail relief by the non-profit Bronx Defenders.

Statistics indicate that, on average, almost 40 percent of the 12,000+ inmates lodged in jails throughout New York City are awaiting trial and unable to afford bail. Non-violent offenders are sharing cells with criminals with rap sheets that include gang violence, murder and rape and are subject to prison violence and exploitation.

There are also financial benefits to releasing defendants awaiting trial. According to a report by the New York City Independent Budget Office, $125 million was spent during the 2012 fiscal year keeping pre-trial detainees behind bars as they awaited their day in court.

The way the fund works brings a sense of community to participants in the new program. After a defendant makes all of his court appearances and resolves his legal situation, his bond money reverts back to the fund so it is available for the next needy, non-violent offender unable to raise bail funds.

Being arrested on even minor misdemeanor offenses can disrupt lives. Those unable to make bail can lose jobs, become homeless, lose their possessions and even custody of their children if they are unable to get released and resume working, tending to everyday responsibilities. To learn whether you are eligible for this or other programs, the first step is consulting with an attorney who is well-versed in the intricacies of the New York legal system.

Source: nydailynews.com, "'Bronx Freedom Fund' pays bail so poor misdemeanor defendants can avoid jail time" Denis Slattery, Oct. 31, 2013

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