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Hotline Brings Help to NYers After Arrest

Even a short stay in jail can affect employment, housing or child custody. (Michael Fleischhacker/Wikimedia Commons)
Even a short stay in jail can affect employment, housing or child custody. (Michael Fleischhacker/Wikimedia Commons)
July 26, 2017

NEW YORK - The first phone call after an arrest can be critical, and now a hotline in New York City is helping make sure it counts.

More than a quarter million people are arrested in New York each year, most for nonviolent misdemeanors. But in the age of cellphones, many people don't memorize important phone numbers and may not be able to reach family members or legal help. Now, by calling 1-833-3-GOODCALL, anyone arrested in the Bronx can get access to free legal services and help contacting family.

Gabriel Leader-Rose, Good Call co-founder, said the consequences of being out of touch can be serious.

"It can mean that people have high bail set or being sent to wait in jail for their trial," he said, "simply because there wasn't enough information and they didn't get the support they needed."

The service, started last fall, now is looking at expanding citywide and to other parts of the state.

The service also operates a Web page where people can register and store the contacts they would need in case of arrest. Leader-Rose said people who might offer assistance can register, too.

"Parents, teachers, et cetera, can go to the site and save their information," he said. "So, if one of their students or one of their children gets in trouble, they can be sure that that person has the ability to reach them, if they want to."

A similar program has operated in Chicago since 1995, providing access to free legal help to anyone arrested in that city.

Leader-Rose said studies have shown that people held in jail pending trial are more likely to plead guilty or be convicted, and get longer sentences, than those who remained free.

"We are already talking to potential legal partners outside of the Bronx, and even starting conversations with organization in other states," he said, "because we really believe that this is a service that everyone should have access to."

He said even a short time in jail can have a negative impact on employment, housing or child custody.

More information is online at goodcall.nyc and the Chicago program is at first-defense.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY