Aaron Fernando
Aaron Fernando '22 Investigates the Impact of Bail Reform Rollbacks

Macaulay Honors student and Jeannette K. Watson Fellow Aaron Fernando ’22 has spent the better part of the last four years learning about our government. The Law & Society major, who wants to become a public defender, interned for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Supreme Court Judge Wilma Guzman ’78, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He helped educate communities about voting and worked as an organizer during local and national elections. Now, he’s investigating how bail impacts underserved communities and how rollbacks cause an increase in prison populations.


“My study has three different parts,” says Fernando. “The first part is looking at the discourse around bail reform. I’m looking at debates, news articles, campaign promises and discussions in the New York State legislature to see where promises on bail reform are rolled back.” The next part is gathering as much data as possible. “I have a huge spreadsheet with information on how bail has increased at different times, including the pandemic; how its changed because of legislation being altered; and the average bail in different kinds of cases.”


Next, Fernando will move on to the research in which he’s most interested. “I’m going to interview three people who have had bail in New York City to get a better sense of their experience,” says Fernando. “The real crux of my study is to understand the impact legislation and bail changes have on defendants and their families. Did they have to stay in jail? Did posting bail lead to economic suffering? Did they lose housing? If we can learn that, then we can craft targeted messages, launch effective political platforms, and create state and local legislation that can lead to real change.”


Aaron’s Top Research Tips:

1. Be flexible. Circumstances may change and you may need to alter your project.

2. Don’t lose sight of your goal. It’s easy to get lost down information rabbit holes, but it’s important to stay on track to answer your central research question. 

3. Ask an expert. Online resources are good but talking to someone who deeply understands your topic is priceless.

4. Stay up to date. Follow developing news about your topic and be prepared to update your project accordingly. 

5. Do the difficult parts early. Then you can focus on the sections you’re truly passionate about.