Just as justice is starting to win across the country, prosecutors, police, and their allies are once again trying to use fear to defeat it.
In January 2020, bipartisan, measured, and common sense bail laws began in New York State. New York ended cash bail for most low-level offenses: misdemeanors & non-violent felonies.These modest reforms are simply a continuation of the steady decline in people detained pretrial all while crime rates have plummeted. Reforms have also already saved thousands from needless exposure to the Coronavirus in jails. But prosecutors and police are still pushing to roll back these reforms. We must reject their fear and dangerous policies.
Pledge to spread the truth about Justice Reform
Emergency: Governor Cuomo and the NY Senate Try to Ram Through the Most Regressive Bail Law in State History
This proposal would represent a drastic, regressive rollback of the current bail law and would be a significant step backwards from even the previous bail law. The combination of preventative detention (remand) and a substantial expansion of detention-eligible charges/circumstances would undermine the presumption of innocence, dramatically increase jail populations across the State, and exacerbate racial disparities.
This proposal would also subject huge numbers of people charged with misdemeanors to remand without possibility of release, something that has never before been done in New York.
Update: The Push to Rollback Bail Reform Continues Despite Coronavirus
Democrats are trying to rush bail reform rollbacks into the budget in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
NY Senate Democrats have decided to rush ahead to pass the state budget in an "accelerated process." And if they tack on rollbacks to bail reform, the state will drastically increase the number of people held in jails before trial. Jails are uniquely poor sites for stopping or containing viral outbreaks. Social distancing is virtually impossible in the close quarters of New York’s jails. Hand sanitizer is deemed contraband and access to soap, toilet paper, and handwashing facilities are highly limited.
Any rollbacks to bail reform would exacerbate this public health crisis.
COVID-19 is already starting to sweep through NY jails, with confirmed cases in corrections officers and those incarcerated, leaving staffers at the prison facility scrambling to find all those who might've come in contact with the virus. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. We must put a stop to the effort from NY lawmakers to hastily pass the new budget amidst this public health crisis, too many lives are at risk.
During this pandemic, New Yorkers need healthcare, safe housing, and other community investments
Increasing investment in what communities need to thrive works to keep communities safe. Jails don't. Especially during the outbreak of infectious disease, the churn of people in and out of jails is dangerous. Any effort to prevent the spread of the disease must include putting a stop to that cycle.
Bail reform is working.
Each day in February 2020, there were 6,800 fewer people incarcerated pretrial in New York’s jails than in February 2019. This is 6,800 people who are not exposed to a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19, people who are not subject to the trauma of pretrial jailing or the violation of their constitutional rights. We can't endanger the lives of our communities by turning back the clock on that success.
Let's take a breath, New York. We should not delay justice, especially not for the sake of fears manufactured by those who make political careers out of them.
Common Sense Reform Passed & Is Already Working in New York State
New York bail reform, ending cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, is already working. Thousands of people statewide have been released from jail or released after arrest without bail ever being set. Parents and children have been reunited, people have been transferred to mental health or addiction treatment, and supervised release programs have connected people with the services they actually need to turn their lives around. And critically, thousands have been able to avoid unnecessary jailing in what leaders are calling "a pot of bubbling contagion."
THE TRUTH: Less incarceration saves lives and money, and makes communities safer and healthier, all while maintaining high appearance rates in court.
New Yorkers should not give any credence to the exaggerated worst-case scenarios of police and prosecutors. We've already seen the real scenario: Lives and money saved. Safer communities.
Demystifying New York Bail Reform
NEW YORK BAIL REFORM IS A CONTINUATION OF A MEASURED, STEADY DECLINE IN INCARCERATION AND CRIME
In NYC, jail rates have decreased by 74% over the last 3 decades (from 21,674 in 1991 to 5,674 in 2020) as major felony crimes have simultaneously dropped by nearly 82%. In Brooklyn, most people charged w/ misdemeanors & non-violent felonies have been released for years violent crime rate has plummeted to historic lows in the same period. Within the first week of reform, there have also been major drops in the number of people in jail in counties like Herkimer and Onondaga, with no upticks in crime.
New York tried giving judges discretion for decades. It didn't work.
The new bail law only takes away judicial discretion to set bail in misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Judges still retain discretion and set bail when allegations involve violent felonies. Despite New York having the most progressive bail law in the country for decades--a strong presumption in favor of release, the rejection of the concept of labelling people as “dangerous” or expecting judges to predict the future, the availability of multiple forms of bail intended to ensure more people were released—judges routinely and purposefully set bail in amounts people could not afford.
The problem was not the previous bail law we had. It was trusting that judges would follow its words and spirit. That said, the new bail law does create more tools for judges and law enforcement to monitor people being released pretrial. All people facing criminal allegations will now be subject to a wide range of supervision options, and all are at the discretion of the judge.
New York has never allowed judges to do so. Albany explicitly rejected it.
Allowing Judges to try to predict "dangerousness" is dangerous. Kalief Browder, the national symbol of the need for bail reform, would have been deemed dangerous, detained on Rikers, and still traumatized to death. A so-called "dangerousness" standard allows a judge to deem someone a threat to the public safety based on nothing more than a suspicion. The judge would be able to strip away a person’s liberty for months, if not years, based on a suspicion. A dangerousness standard would only increase the already egregious racial disparities and inequities in our criminal legal system. Ending cash bail does not require the creation of another mechanism to incarcerate people pretrial. Armed with even more power and discretion to do so, judges will do so.
Bail Reform Only Benefits People charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies
The new bail laws, derived from years of advocacy and experience, are an incremental step of simply disallowing bail to be set on people charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, all while increasing the availability of pretrial services for individuals who need. In the end, lawmakers decided to continue to allow judges to retain the discretion to jail (or release) people, who are accused of a violent felony, if on the individual facts of the case and circumstances of the person before them, that makes sense. This is essentially the same policy that has always been in effect, but today, there are more options for services, including non-jail supervision and electronic monitoring that were not previously available.
Bail reform took years of research, negotiation, and consideration from all sides
Bail reform didn’t just happen overnight. This was a process that took years of research, activism, negotiation and consideration. Everyone who needed to be a part of the process was. Stakeholders across the board were a part of negotiations, including prosecutors and police, despite their protestations that they were not, and the result is a bail law that decreases mass pretrial jailing, advances racial and socioeconomic justice, and makes our communities safer. Studies show that pretrial incarceration actually increases future crime.
Dear Governor Cuomo & Democratic Lawmakers: Any effort to rollback pretrial justice reforms during the Coronavirus Pandemic is Irresponsible & Unjust
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, local and national organizations, leaders from a range of disciplines, and lawmakers are urgently calling on New York's leadership to stop efforts to rollback bail & discovery laws.
More than 165 local and national faith leaders speak out forcefully against misplaced efforts to jail more people:
"Our collective moral compass demands we choose people’s dignity over politics. Bail law rollbacks will result in increased pretrial incarceration, which is immoral, and will worsen the spread of Coronavirus and place more New Yorkers’ lives at risk. Across the country, steps are being taken to reduce arrests and incarceration in the face of this pandemic, not increase it, and New York must follow this model."
The two Chairs of the Health Committees of the New York Assembly and Senate--Dick Gottfried and Gustavo Rivera-took the rare step of calling on their colleagues to stop consideration of jailing more people.
"We are deeply concerned by the potential health impacts of rolling back bail reform under “normal” circumstances, let alone during a worldwide epidemic.With the spread of COVID-19, increased pre-trial detention is a massive health risk not only to those who are in jail but to the families and community to which they return and to the jail and court personnel."
Experience elsewhere and ample research show that there is no reason to believe New York’s reforms will lead to mayhem, or endanger the public.
New York police & prosecutors are using fear & lies to perpetuate the costly injustice of bail:
Bail is Unfair
Bail is Unecessary
Bail is costly
Bail is Dangerous
Bail is Racist
Bail is Devastating
The injustice of bail in New York
Prior to bail reform, thousands of people were kept jailed in counties across New York State, while awaiting trial. This practice persisted despite the incredible cost of incarceration and the fact that the majority of arrests were for misdemeanors.
Use this map to explore the statistics of pre-trial detention by county.
Data courtesy of Vera Institute for Justice
Value C per day, per person
Dear Members of the New York Press Club:
45 leading law professors and justice reform experts, including law professors from several New York City area colleges, signed a letter criticizing sensationalist news coverage. "If we want a truly just system and a safer community, we must move forward using facts, not fear, to guide us. We ask that you reject this harmful reporting and meaningfully engage New Yorkers in this effort."
The Daily Debunk:
Rapid Response to Lies, Mistruths, & Fearmongering
We need your help fighting back against fearmongering. Please help us collect, report, and hold accountable those who are trying to use fear to defeat commonsense justice reform.
As they* continue to peddle fear, let us spread the truth. Because truth and justice are greater than fear.
Share Real Bail Stories
Right now, pro-carceral law enforcement and prosecutors are cherry-picking outlier cases to fear-monger and try to defeat New York's bail reform.Right now, pro-carceral law enforcement and prosecutors are cherry-picking outlier cases to fear-monger and try to defeat New York's bail reform.