Man Spends 5 Months in Jail on $2 Bail

By Sameer Rao Jun 02, 2016

Two dollars can’t buy much in New York City, but for one incarcerated man, it could have secured his freedom. 

The New York Daily News reported yesterday (June 1) that Aitabdel Salem spent five months in the city’s infamous Rikers Island jail because he didn’t know that his bail was just $2. He was there November 2014 through April 2015.

Salem, an Algerian native, was initially jailed for allegedly attacking an NYPD officer who arrested him for stealing a coat from a Manhattan store. His bail for that incident was set at $25,000. But when prosecutors failed to indict him, the amount was reduced to just $2—$1 each for minor charges of tampering and mischief.

Salem’s current attorneys told the Daily News that his previous representation didn’t tell him about the lowered bail, so he went to jail, thinking he could not afford to leave. "[Salem] was shocked and dismayed and frustrated that his case was unconscionably mishandled and there was no communication by his attorney telling him his bail was $2 which he could have made at any moment," said Glenn Hardy, one of the new attorneys.

Legal Aid Society’s Stephen Pokart, Salem’s previous attorney, did not respond to the Daily News’ request for comment.

Salem is currently back in jail after missing a court date scheduled a couple weeks after his release. His attorneys argue that he didn’t even know about the hearing: a letter intended for his address of record was marked "Return to Sender."