Pedro Hernandez: Another Victim of the Unjust Bail System
By: Cheyenne Darcy Amaya
Pedro Hernandez, 17, was arrested after being accused of shooting a teenager in the leg in front of a Bronx grocery store. He was charged with “criminal possession of a weapon, assault and reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a firearm.” The shooting victim as well as other eyewitnesses have since come forward to clear innocent Hernandez’s name by stating that he did not commit the crime nor shoot the victim. However, he was not released because his bail was set at $250,000 - something his family could not afford. He was also offered a plea deal, but he decided not to accept it because he would prefer to go to trial to prove his innocence.
According to Shaun King, “In spite of it all, Pedro Hernandez has been a star behind bars – not only earning his GED, but also getting nominated for a full college scholarship from the Posse Foundation and winning several academic awards for his own achievements as well as his support helping other students earn their GEDs.” When Hernandez is the topic of conversation, people often label him an “honor student”, because despite what the system has done to him, he continues to succeed.
Many compare Pedro Hernandez’s story to the one of Kalief Browder because they both have been falsely accused of crimes they did not commit, sent to Rikers Island for a long period of time behind bars, and on top of that beaten by guards. According to the New Daily News, after three years Kalief Browder’s charges were released and he was finally free to go, but the trauma he endured behind those bars was irreversible. Browder later killed himself in 2015 due to the endless, lingering depression he felt. Pedro Hernandez even showed signs of steering toward a similar path when he told his mother, Jessica Perez, that he sometimes wants to die.
After 13 long months of Hernandez's incarceration, there came some much-needed light. The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a non-profitable human rights advocacy organization, covered Hernandez’s entire bail while also managing to lower it to $105,000. The Human Rights Group President Kerry Kennedy said in a statement “no one should disappear into a jail as notorious as Riker’s Island simply because they cannot afford bail.” She continued onto say “the clear injustice of Pedro Hernandez’s situation breaks my heart, as it should the hearts of all New Yorkers who desire an effective justice system.”
Since his bail he has spoken out and stated,“Incarceration at Rikers has been incredibly difficult for me, but it was my family who truly suffered. Being back with them is the greatest gift.” He also said “there are too many more like me who are still inside Rikers just because they can’t afford to pay bail...I hope my experience elevates their struggle and causes all of to rethink how we treat those who are least able to purchase their freedom.”
The most disheartening truth about this all is that Pedro Hernandez was not the first to be thrown in jail for a crime that he did not commit and he most likely won’t be the last. In cases like this, where people remain behind bars simply because of a bail they cannot afford, the justice system will always be wrong.
Hopefully, Pedro Hernandez’s story will bring about change and clear his name for good.