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NYC Bail and Inmate System Experiences Weeks Outage

New York City’s online system used to post bail and access other information about people in jail has been down for over two weeks, leaving lawyers and families without a crucial avenue to those behind bars.

by Chelsia Rose Marcius, New York Daily News / January 5, 2020
Street parking in New York City. (Shutterstock)

(TNS) — New York City’s online system used to post bail and access other information about people in jail has been down for over two weeks, leaving lawyers and families without a crucial avenue to those behind bars.

The system, called Inmate Lookup, has been down for at least 15 days, said  Marie Ndiaye , Supervising Attorney of the Decarceration Project at the Legal Aid Society, who said lawyers there first flagged the issue on Dec. 20.

“We rely on it heavily. It has all the information that we need to conduct business on a day to day basis — and now that it’s not available, it’s really a hindrance on our work,” said Ndiaye, noting that lawyers use the search engine to find out clients’ booking and case numbers, where they’re being housed, and if there’s a bail hold on their case, among other things.

Family members also use the system to electronically put money in a loved one’s commissary fund, post credit card bail for those who are eligible and check visitation schedules.

“It’s cutting off an avenue for release for people,” Ndiaye said, noting people who want to post bail online must now do so in person. “We want people to stay home, we want people to stay safe as much as possible. If things can be done remotely or automated, we want that to happen.”

The Inmate Lookup webpage — which would not load for days — now displays a message that the system has been “experiencing technical difficulties,” and redirects users to the Office of Constituent Services and Grievances for further inquires.

“The online bail payment system is temporarily unavailable,” says another message on the Correction Department homepage. “We are working as quickly as possible to restore services. Deposits can now be made to inmate accounts via JPay and Western Union.”

Norman Reimer , executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the outage during COVID was especially disruptive.

“You can understand technology failure, but you’ve got to be able to respond to it and respond quickly,” he said.

(c)2021 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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