By Jonathan Wilson and Salamat Ellam
At St. Paul’s Church in lower Manhattan, activists and public officials held a discussion on a burning criminal justice topic: “Stop Mass Incarceration: Ending Cash Bail and the Road to Closing Rikers.”

The discussion group was focusing on topics such as bail reform and parole reform. Judge Jonathan Lippman one of the main speakers had this to say about reform, “Liberty cannot be about the money in your pocket or the color of your skin.”

Marvin Mayfield, after being charged with drug possession, was sent to Rikers Island jail because he couldn’t afford to pay bail. Credit: Salamat Ellams.

Cash bail has long been a major feature of the American criminal justice system. It determines whether someone will go home and await their trial there or sit inside a jail cell. The issue of cash bail is something that has been going on for years with many being strong opposed to it. California Gov. Jerry Brown years ago  made his opposition clear.
According to NPR, Brown, in his 1979 State of the State Address, argued the existing process was “biased, favoring the wealthy…”
Misael Syldor of the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice & Incarceration Reform on Thursday stated, “Cash bail disproportionately affects low income people, people of color, and people vulnerable through income.” This was a major sentiment position and those at the St. Paul’s event wanted to educate residents of New York State about the issue.
Cash bail is the money that a defendant deposits to her or him to come back for their court date. The judge presiding over the case is required by law to also take into account the amount of bail the particular defendant would be able to afford.
Ex convict Marvin Mayfield was at the discussion. He was incarcerated for four years and after being out for 12 years he recounted his story on Thursday. He had been charged with drug possession and couldn’t afford to pay for bail so he was sent to Rikers Island where he spent four months before his trial. Mayfield stated that he “endured beatings and brutalizations in Rikers Island.” His story is similar to the recent story about Kalief Browder who was imprisoned in Rikers Island for three years where he was subjected to solitary confinement and beatings from guards. He was found innocent of the crime that he was  accused of when he was 16. But after he was released he committed suicide, and those close to him say he killed himself because of the trauma of his sufferings in jail.