NY Daily News Neglects All Data About Bail Reform In Editorial Propping Up Hochul Proposal

The New York Daily News editorial board encouraged legislators to ignore all available facts about bail reform in an editorial supporting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to remove the “least restrictive means” standard in bail-eligible cases.

Fact Check: False

The Briefing

The New York Daily News editorial board encouraged legislators to ignore all available facts about bail reform in an editorial supporting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to remove the “least restrictive means” standard in bail-eligible cases. The piece based its argument on a misleading Siena poll that inaccurately queried New Yorkers – who have been regularly lied to about bail reform by outlets like the Daily News – about Hochul’s proposal. While the Daily News was not able to provide evidence that Hochul’s proposal makes any sense for New Yorkers, it, along with other media outlets, continues to play a key role in misleading the public and undermining support for bail reform.

The poll question mischaracterizes the law

The poll question that the Daily News editorial board uses to justify their argument is inaccurate, problematic and misleading: indicative of the fact that the editorial board has no credible evidence to support Hochul’s proposal.

Siena’s prompt – “Giving judges more discretion to set bail for offenders accused of serious crimes”--presupposes Hochul’s false logic. Judges have always had – and continue to have – the discretion to set bail on “serious crimes” – i.e. violent felonies. They regularly employ their ample discretion. According to a report by New York Focus, some judges set bail in nearly 8 out of 10 eligible cases. Almost 80 percent of people jailed pretrial on Rikers Island are there because a judge set bail on a violent felony. Hochul’s proposal will not give judges more discretion, it will only invite more confusion and bias into bail decisions.

The prompt also characterizes people who are charged with violent felonies as “offenders,” a misleading and dehumanizing term that falsely indicates to respondents that people charged with crimes are guilty and ignores the fact that 86 percent of felony charges in New York are ultimately dismissed. A more accurate prompt to gauge support for Hochul’s proposal would be “Do you support eliminating the only existing legal standard, on the books for decades, that judges use in making bail decisions?”, or “Should people be in jail because they can’t afford bail?”

Media misinformation is eroding public support for bail reform

Despite the misleading nature of the Siena prompt about Hochul’s proposal, the Daily News editorial board still holds up the poll as a primary reason why the legislature should go along with Hochul’s misguided and regressive proposal. This doesn’t make any sense. 

“If the lawmakers don’t want to listen to Adams or Hochul (and they don’t seem to), maybe they’re interested in what their constituents think,” the editorial board writes. This is a remarkably ironic statement. 

Multiple studies show that media coverage and framing of bail reform in New York has played a key role in undermining support for bail reform. Sensationalized stories, disproportionate media coverage, and unchecked repetition of lies from elected officials all combine to mislead the public about the ongoing success of bail reform. 

The editorial board snarkily prods legislators standing behind bail reform to listen to voters without acknowledging that those voters have been lied to by outlets like the Daily News. Misleading stories and editorials about bail reform from the Daily News can be found here, here, here and here.

The editorial board’s choice to write an editorial about Hochul’s proposal instead of a number of other issues underscores the board’s bias towards status quo carceral policies. The same Siena poll found that New Yorkers support raising taxes on the state’s high-earners and creating incentives for cities to build more affordable housing. Where is the editorial on more progressive taxation? On affordable housing? On community violence interventions

The editorial board is centering bail reform as the critical issue for legislators to act on, while ignoring all available data about the efficacy of bail reform, as well as a range of other policy priorities that would improve the lives of New Yorkers. The editorial board may wrongly believe in policies that have failed New York’s communities for decades, but we know we cannot incarcerate our way to safety.

Every study shows that bail reform is a successful public policy

The Daily News editorial board is holding up a faulty data point within a misleading editorial piece because they have no data to support their argument for Hochul’s proposal. Study after study after study show that bail reform in New York is a massive policy success. Bail reform has no connection to increases in crime. Bail reform does not lead to more rearrests. Bail reform has led to more people showing up for their court dates. Bail reform has decreased the likelihood of future arrest.

New Yorkers who care about safety see Hochul’s proposal for what it is – a radical sea change that will incarcerate thousands of Black, brown and poor New Yorkers – and are advocating for real investments in communities.

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