An Internal Debate

Court records show he was arrested June 7, after being stopped for speeding. What happened next is in dispute. Officers say he was belligerent, assaulted them and resisted arrest. Green says he was pulled over for no reason, treated with disrespect and attacked by the officers.

Green wants a jury to decide who was right and who was wrong. He also knows a guilty plea is not helpful to the job prospects of a 25-year-old black man with a previous record — a minor weapons charge from several years ago.

But as he stands here, you can hear him start to waver. He’s done almost half the 60 days already.

“I cannot be here,” he says with a sigh. “I got my daughter, and that’s what I’m thinking about. I have to do what I [have to] do.”

The internal debate Green is waging is one that national studies show usually works in prosecutors’ favor. Defendants waiting in jail are far more likely to plead guilty than defendants waiting on the outside for their cases to wind their way through the system. They’re also far more likely to receive and accept harsher punishments.
Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson declined NPR’s request to talk about bail. But Marty Horn, then-commissioner of New York City’s jails, says he sees this scenario play out every day as he walks the hallways of Rikers Island.

“Individuals who insist on their innocence and refuse to plead guilty get held,” according to Horn. “But the people who choose to plead guilty get out faster. So this guy is in this predicament, right? So, if he insists on his innocence, he sits here.”

Does that seem fair?

“I think our system unfortunately forces them to make a difficult choice,” Horn says.

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