GOP Politicians Lie About Bail Reform, Raise the Age

Republican elected officials and their representatives falsely claimed bail reform and Raise the Age were responsible for a criminal act on a Staten Island train platform.

Fact Check: False

The Briefing

In a performative press conference on the steps of a train station, Republican elected officials and their representatives falsely claimed bail reform and Raise the Age were responsible for a criminal act. Their lies and fear mongering are part of a campaign to put more children in jail. The crime in question has no connection to bail reform, Raise the Age, or any criminal justice reform aimed at making the system more fair and just.

Nothing to do with bail reform

On April 22, a man was stabbed on the platform of a Staten Island Railway station after a fight started on the train. There are three suspects in the case, a 13-year-old girl, and two 14-year-old boys. The three children still have not yet been charged with any crimes. None of these children had been arrested before; consequently, none of them had been released as a result of bail reform. This obvious fact was purposefully ignored by representatives of Republican legislators, who blamed the crime on the “revolving door” of the criminal justice system and “Albany Democrats.” The truth is that bail reform has nothing to do with this crime. 

Bail reform was passed in 2019 and made most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies ineligible for bail. The three children had not been previously arrested, so they could not have been released because of bail reform. If the children in this case were charged as adults, a judge could set bail because the underlying charge is bail eligible. Lawmakers know these facts, but the Republican representatives chose to lie to stoke fear, so that the public continues to falsely believe bail reform is a problem and crime is worse than it is. 

The politicians also lied about crime data and bail reform at the press conference, falsely claiming increases in crime are connected to modest criminal justice reforms. The data is clear – bail reform has nothing to do with any increases in crime. The media also failed its duty to report facts. Instead of giving context to the representatives’ lies, SI Live simply printed the false quotes.

Raise the Age is irrelevant

The Republican representatives also sought to tie the crime to Raise the Age, a law that brought New York in step with the rest of the country (and most of the rest of the world) by no longer automatically prosecuting 16 and 17 year olds as adults. Before the law, a 16-year-old charged with a petty crimes would be arrested and treated the same as adults. The logic behind Raise the Age – beyond simple morality – was the decades of neuroscience showing that children’s developing brains make them less responsible than adults; a conclusion supported by commonsense age limits on voting, smoking, and drinking. 

The representatives at the press conference made inflammatory claims about gangs and children intentionally disobeying the law that have no basis in reality. Even beyond their general lies and fear mongering, they are simply wrong about Raise the Age. The suspects in the case were 13 and 14 years old; children that young were never automatically prosecuted as adults in New York. Raise the Age did not affect children under 16.

Lies are part of a misinformation campaign

This press conference was designed to fearmonger about criminal justice reforms but had no basis in reality. Certain politicians and media outlets are determined to keep New Yorkers feeling unsafe, so that they can use that fear to pass laws to lock up more people. This campaign – including the current push by Governor Hochul to roll back bail reform  – cannot change the fact that bail reform has been an unqualified success – study after study after study show that bail reform in New York is a massive policy success. The safest communities are the ones with the most resources, not the highest jail populations.

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