Across the country, we’re seeing movements achieve historic wins for fairness, racial justice, public health, and public safety. A new law ending cash bail in Illinois. Prosecutors in California, who care more about fairness than punishment. Marijuana legalization in New York that reinvests in communities. Yet prosecutors and police are fighting back with the same polarizing scare tactics that created mass incarceration to perpetuate it. We must demand justice not fear.

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At this pivotal moment, we should be building a fairer, safer future. Instead, our leaders are using fear to double down on the status quo.

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STORY COLLECTION FORM FOR PUBLIC DEFENDERS

Right now, pro-carceral law enforcement and prosecutors are cherry-picking outlier cases and misrepresenting facts, the law itself, and case outcomes to try to defeat New York’s bail and discovery reform. We hope to collect your real stories about people released under the bail law. Please submit only one case story per form and please be careful not to provide information that may identify the client. If you have any questions, please contact us at stories@justicenotfear.org.

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The Briefing:

The honest truth about bail reform written by criminal justice experts

02-16-2024 New York
Study finds more proof bail reform works

A study on the effects of bail reform concludes, once again, that bail reform does not increase crime. Eliminating the ability of judges to detain someone accused of a crime does not drive crime and may in fact reduce crime.

Fact Check: Bail Reform Works

The Truth Read more

Due to a mistaken belief about relevant legal standards, the study makes an incorrect conclusion relating to recidivism in people charged with bail eligible crimes.

02-08-2024 Illinois
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart Spreads Disinformation about Electronic Monitoring Reforms

Following the arrest of a man awaiting trial on electronic monitoring, Sheriff Dart claimed his office was unable to track his whereabouts because of the essential movement provisions of the Pretrial Fairness Act.

Fact Check: FALSE

The Truth Read more

There is nothing in Illinois law requiring the Sheriff to stop tracking individuals on electronic monitoring.

02-06-2024 New York
Leaders, media falsely link Times Square assault to bail reform

Law enforcement, political leaders, and media outlets have seized the story of an assault on a police officer to baselessly link the incident to New York’s bail reform laws.

Fact Check: False

The Truth Read more

Not only does the case have nothing to do with bail reform, but the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has been transparent in its challenge of identifying the people responsible and their relative levels of culpability. Innocent people should not be jailed indefinitely.

01-25-2024 Illinois
Will County Judge Erroneously Blames the Pretrial Fairness Act for the Required Release of a Woman Accused of a Non-Violent Class 4 felony offense.

A Will County Judge blamed the Pretrial Fairness Act for his inability to detain Kyleigh Cleveland-Singleton, who has been charged with obstruction of justice, a class 4 non-violent felony. She was not accused of any violence.

Fact Check: FALSE

The Truth Read more

Class 4 non-violent felony offenses were not detainable offenses even prior to the Pretrial Fairness Act. The only option a judge had under the old system was to order a money bond, which if paid, would guarantee an individual’s release.

01-22-2024 Illinois
Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis Spreads Misinformation About the Pretrial Fairness Act

In an interview with WSPY News, State’s Attorney Eric Weis suggests that the elimination of cash bail creates a “release and reoffend” cycle that is causing an increase in cases. “You know, certain people can’t be held, so they go out commit crime [sic], get released, they go out and commit a crime, get released, and again, the numbers just continue to go up,” said S.A. Weis.

Fact Check: FALSE

The Truth Read more

While the Pretrial Fairness Act does eliminate the use of wealth-based pretrial incarceration, and mandates that many arrested individuals are given a chance to succeed on pretrial release, it does not eliminate the court’s ability to jail someone awaiting trial.

01-18-2024 Illinois
Kankakee County State Attorney Jim Rowe Spreads Disinformation About Detainable Offenses

“There is no ability to detain a sex offender who has refused to register, a fentanyl dealer, or someone who steals a vehicle, and that is all absurd to me,” said Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Row in the Daily Journal.

Fact Check: FALSE

The Truth Read more

Under the Pretrial Fairness Act, all Class 3 felonies and above are detainable offenses for which someone can be denied release when certain findings are made. Failure to register, distribution of controlled substances, and possession of a stolen vehicle are all felony offenses for which pretrial release may now be denied when certain findings are made—and which were not eligible for detention prior to the new law. Judges could only order a money bond, which if paid, would guarantee an individual’s release. Now judges have the power to deny release altogether when someone poses a risk of intentionally evading prosecution.

01-16-2024 New York
NY Post, Manhattan Institute Lie To New Yorkers About Discovery Reform

A recent op-ed written by a Manhattan Institute fellow is littered with misleading or outright false claims, misconstrued data, and logical fallacies about the effect of discovery reform.

Fact Check: False

The Truth Read more

The truth is discovery reform does not cause crime and does not create any additional burden for law enforcement to furnish evidence to people charged with crimes.

12-05-2023 New York
Report Finds Media Coverage Of Pretrial Reform Fell Short

A report from the CUNY Institute for State & Local Governance found that media coverage of pretrial reform was “incomplete, and in some cases, inaccurate."

Fact Check: Misleading

The Truth Read more

The research is yet another example that demonstrates the way sensational and cynical news coverage undermines public safety by misleading readers about the effects of common sense criminal justice reforms.

11-08-2023 New York
Lawmaker's Plan To Reduce Car Thefts Another Example of Failed Carceral Mindset

A state senator has proposed a plan to incarcerate more people in a misguided attempt to reduce car thefts.

Fact Check: Misleading

The Truth Read more

There are already serious consequences for car theft, and Senator Jeremy Cooney’s overbroad bill fails to acknowledge the devastating implications of pretrial detention and the root causes of crime and instances of harm.

11-03-2023 Illinois
Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser Spreads Misinformation About Trespassing Cases

Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser told the Aurora Beacon about a woman with mental health issues who has been repeatedly trespassing at a home and claimed that there is nothing prosecutors can do to keep her away from the house other than for police to cite and release her.

Fact Check: FALSE

The Truth Read more

Trespass to Residence is a Class A misdemeanor or a Class 4 felony. There is no requirement that police cite and release people for those levels of charges. Even if she was being charged with a lower level version of trespass, police would have been able to arrest this individual during the initial incident had she presented a danger to others. After the initial citation was issued, police could have arrested her if she continued to engage in criminal behavior. Prosecutors would also be able to charge the person with violating the terms of their pretrial release, and a judge could hold them in custody for that violation.

10-17-2023 Illinois
Madison County State's Attorney Denies Ability to Set Conditions on Pretrial Release

"Under the new system, there's only one option: detention. Otherwise, the individual who is charged with potentially very serious crimes walks out the door without paying a dime." Madison County State's Attorney Tom Haine in the Edwardsville Intelligencer

Fact Check: False

The Truth Read more

The Pretrial Fairness Act eliminated money bond as a condition of release, but prosecutors can still ask for and judges can still order many other conditions of release.

10-12-2023 Illinois
Cook County Judge & Prosecutor Make False Claims About the Detention Net

In an article published by The Patch, aCook County prosecutor and a judge claimed that someone accused of strangulation cannot be denied release under the Pretrial Fairness Act. "It's compelled that the defendant be released," Cook County Judge Anthony Calabrese said.

Fact Check: FALSE

The Truth Read more

Under the Pretrial Fairness Act, people can be detained for safety reasons if they are accused of a felony that involves the threat of or infliction of great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement. Strangulation would meet this standard.

See All

The Latest

Block Club: Jail population down, but state data on pretrial detention late

"The number of people incarcerated at Cook County Jail has dropped to a near-all-time low since the statewide abolition of cash bail took effect in September. But despite the success in the Chicago area, the state has still failed to comply with key transparency and accountability portions of the Pretrial Fairness Act intended to ensure judges apply the bond reform law fairly across Illinois."

Sun-Times: Cook County Jail population shrinks after elimination of cash bail

"The Cook County Jail population has dipped below 5,000 for only the second time in nearly four decades, a drop experts are linking to Illinois’ historic elimination of cash bail on Sept. 18."

Rochelle News-Leader: Don't swap money bail for digital jails

"As researchers who study the use of electronic monitoring throughout the United States, we are concerned. No research shows that EM leads to better outcomes as compared to people being released without a monitor."

AP: Illinois first to abolish cash bail

"Reflecting on their experiences, Brooks and Ross said being locked up pretrial harmed their chances in court. 'You’re automatically stigmatized if you’re incarcerated and you’re fighting your case, especially Black women,' Brooks said. They hope the new law will change that for others in Illinois."

Sun-Times: Eliminating cash bail puts Illinois firmly on road of criminal justice reform

"But bottom-line, it simply isn’t fair for people charged with low-level and nonviolent crimes to bide their time in jail while they await trial solely because they don’t have the cash more privileged suspects can withdraw within minutes."

Chicago Tribune: The Pretrial Fairness Act is constitutional. It’s time for justice to prevail.

"Wealth-based jailing has been brought up in our legislature twice, effectively placed on the ballot and heard by the courts. It is time to roll up our sleeves and see this historic reform through. Continuing to attempt to sabotage the law’s implementation will not only ignore the will of Illinoisans, but it will also put public safety at risk."

Times-Union: No, bail isn't about respect

"It is not the purpose of bail to serve as a symbol of our society's appreciation for the dangerous work that law enforcement professionals do. Our laws express that appreciation quite clearly already, providing stronger charges and longer sentences for crimes committed against them. But bail that for most people would amount to pretrial incarceration? That's not what our bail laws are meant to do."

Justice Quarterly: Bail reform law in New York had negligible effect on increases in crime

"The study found that rates of murder, larceny, and motor vehicle theft rose after the bail reform, but the increase may have been due to the pandemic instead of bail reform. The authors controlled for the impact of the pandemic by constructing a comparison group of other states also affected by the pandemic but without bail reform in the same period. After comparing New York State with the comparison group, the study found that the rate of increase in crimes in New York State was insignificant."

Gotham Gazette: New York Can't Put The Blindfold Back On

"Fulfilling the promise of a fairer criminal legal system requires firm commitment to the 2019 landmark law — not a retreat from it that will absolve prosecutors of their obligations and have devastating consequences for people awaiting trial. We urge state legislators to resist the governor’s and prosecutors’ attempt to weaken our discovery laws. Justice depends on it."

City & State: A (not so) brief guide to New York’s bail reform evolution

"The idea that people should be released before trial and only locked up as punishment after they have been convicted of a crime is actually a fundamental aspect of the American justice system. Holding people in pretrial detention has traditionally been the exception, not the rule."

The Appeal: Kathy Hochul's ‘Pro-Suffering’ Campaign Against Bail Reform

"Governor Hochul and those who support her policies on policing and pretrial justice are now campaigning to ensure that more people suffer horrific deaths in jail before any determination of guilt, and that cops remain empowered to terrorize with impunity."

Human Rights Watch director: Don’t undermine New York State’s reform of bail

"If lawmakers are serious about reducing crime, they should continue their efforts to reduce pretrial jailing, end excessive sentencing, and make investments in communities that address needs. The safest communities have good schools, well paid jobs, stable housing, access to quality health care, including mental health care, drug treatment, and more. This is where policymakers should be directing their focus."

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