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Bail Reform: Mayor De Blasio Defends Giving Freed Prison Inmates Gifts For Appearing In Court As 'A Smart Policy'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio came to the defense of a city program that critics say will reward criminal behavior.

The incentive program would give accused criminals – being released from jail under the city's new cashless bail policy – things like New York Mets tickets and gift cards for showing up to court.

MORE: NYC To Offer Mets Tickets, Doughnut Gift Cards To Get Freed Inmates Back In Court After State Ends Cash Bail

New York City will be ringing in the New Year with a new set of criminal justice reforms to combat overcrowded jails.

CitiField Preview
A general view of the exterior of Citi Field on March 25, 2009 in the Flushing, Queens. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

About 900 accused criminals are expected to be released, and the city will be rewarding them with Mets tickets, movie passes, and store gift cards for making their scheduled court appearances.

Critics say the program rewards criminal behavior, but de Blasio is optimistic the plan will work.

"In a world where we want speedier trials and we want the justice system to work, if small incentives are part of what actually makes it work, then that's a smart policy," he said Wednesday.

Starting Jan. 1, the bail reform policy eliminates cash bail and pre-trial detention for misdemeanors and most low level felonies – with exceptions like murder conspiracy, domestic violence cases, and sex crimes.

"It's not something we developed. It's something that has been worked on by experts over time and proven to work and proven to be a good investment," de Blasio argued.

Outgoing NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, who's been vocal about his opposition to bail reform, didn't hesitate to express his reservations.

"We have to make sure there are consequences for criminal behavior," O'Neill said Wednesday. "Come January 1… we're a resilient organization, we'll adapt, but I have real concerns."

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His successor, incoming Commissioner Dermot Shea, is keeping an open mind.

"Is it a good idea to give people Mets tickets? I don't know, but I'm willing to try different things," he said.

The mayor made it very clear that while he is a fan of bail reform and reducing mass incarceration, he is not a fan of a policy that takes away a judge's ability to make case-by-case judgments based on how dangerous a defendant is.

The state's office of court administration says defendants who qualify to be released under the new bail reform policy will start being released in mid-December.

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