Albany County District Attorney David Soares lied to his constituents and the people of New York this past week about bail reform. First, Soares falsely scapegoated bail reform for instances of crime in his community without any information to back his claims up. Second, Soares lied about the prevalence of rearrests for gun possession when such cases are nearly non-existent. Third, Soares lied about which accusations bail reform cover. Finally, Soares advocated for increased pretrial detention of children.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares lied to his constituents and the people of New York this past week about bail reform. First, Soares – the top prosecutor in the capital of New York and former head of the state District Attorneys Association — falsely scapegoated bail reform for instances of crime in his community without any information to back his claims up. Second, Soares lied about the prevalence of rearrests for gun possession when such cases are nearly non-existent. Third, Soares lied about which accusations bail reform cover. Finally, Soares advocated for increased pretrial detention of children.
It is critical that we follow facts, not fear.
In the wake of two unsolved shootings in Albany, Soares asserted, without evidence, that bail reform has “demonstrably impacted violent crime in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.” It is true that tragic instances of harm occur, but research draws no connection between bail reform and any increases in crime. Pretrial arrest rates for violent crimes are nearly identical pre- and post-bail reform. It is also concerning that Soares chose to highlight recent unsolved cases to mislead the public about bail reform, instead of working for the people of Albany and focusing on identifying who perpetrated the harm.
Soares also misrepresented the bail reform law, suggesting that after reform, people are commonly rearrested on gun possession charges whereas prior to bail reform, someone arrested for gun possession would be “removed from the community” and “held accountable.” Not only are rearrest rates for violent felonies like gun possession extremely low, but the charge Soares described—possession of a loaded firearm—is currently and has always been bail eligible. Bail reform only affected misdemeanors and some non-violent felonies.
Soares’s comments echo a troubling but common pattern of police and prosecutors lying about crime data – gun violence and possession in particular – to support their carceral agenda. After NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea blamed bail reform for gun violence, reporting by CBS2 found that rearrests for alleged gun crimes actually decreased following the enactment of bail reform. And NYPD’s own data debunked its lies about any connection between pretrial release and a spike in gun violence.
While spreading misinformation about crime and attempting to undermine bail reform, Soares also fearmongered about youth crime and complained that he couldn’t detain children for gun possession. His criticism of pretrial release for children flies in the face of all available research about juvenile brain development and the damaging effects of adult criminal proceedings and sentencing on children. Incarceration is not “rehabilitative” and is particularly damaging to the wellbeing and future health of children. In 2017, New York passed its Raise the Age law, which increased the age of automatic adult criminal accountability to 18 in order to bring NY into line with the rest of the country (at that time, only North Carolina also automatically prosecuted 16 and 17 year olds as adults). To suggest that New York’s criminal legal policies are insufficiently punitive for children and young adults is simply not grounded in fact or practice.
Near the end of his statement, Soares appeared to identify a viable solution to uphold public health and safety.
“You need to make significant investments in prevention strategies that are effective, and the reality is that we are lacking in those prevention strategies. Young people should not be going out in the community where they have no ability to engage in conflict resolution,” Soares said. “The 10-year-old that you’re not paying attention to right now, that you’re not investing in right now, is going to be the same 15 year old that we are dealing with in the criminal justice system. If this is a state that’s really committed to prevention, then we need to put our money where our mouth is.”
Soares could listen to his own advice. Data show that community-based, public health-centered violence intervention programs do a better job of preventing and decreasing gun crime than policing and prosecution. The safest communities have the most resources, not the highest incarceration rates.