Pedro Hernandez has been released from Rikers Island.
In a report from the New York Daily News, the 17-year-old was reunited with his family on Thursday after being incarcerated at Rikers for 13 months for a crime he never committed. Hernandez was arrested in connection with a 2015 shooting where another teenager was shot in the leg. Although the victim and eight other teens that witnessed the shooting said that Hernandez did not commit the crime he was still arrested. According to those same victims, in video recorded statements, they said that the arresting officer threatened them with physical violence if they did not claim to investigators that the shooter is Hernandez.
Hernandez could have accepted a plea deal where he would be placed on probation for five years (following that his record would be wiped clean) but he did not accept, wanting to prove his innocence instead (a situation similar to that of Kalief Browder). His incarceration jeopardized his chances of accepting a full scholarship to college, with his bail set at $250,000. Ultimately, Hernandez’s family raised over $100,000 and received the remaining $150,000 from the nonprofit Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights group, who agreed to post the remainder of his bail.
“No one should disappear into a jail as notorious as Rikers Island simply because they can’t afford bail,” Kerry Kennedy, the human rights group’s president, said. “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.”
Upon being released, Hernandez said he hopes his story leads to a reevaluation of the bail system.
“There are too many more like me who are still inside Rikers just because they can’t afford to pay bail,” he said. “I hope my experience elevates their struggle and causes all of us to rethink how we treat those who are least able to purchase their freedom.”