What's Happening With Bail Reform in New York

I had the opportunity to go to the New York state capitol in Albany three times in March with Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) to urge lawmakers not to sign onto Governor Hochul’s plan to push back bail reform.

It is appalling that she wants to implement the passage of her 10-point public safety plan into the budget with bail reform and rollbacks as a caveat. This controversial safety plan and budget is an insult to all advocates and activists who have diligently worked to protect the most marginalized people in our city over the past decades.

What's Happening With Bail Reform in New York

We photo bombed the Republicans who are advocating for bail reform. The messaging is inaccurate and based on fear. Bail reform is not responsible for the rise in crime.

Advocates addressed a letter to Governor Hochul. “The proposed amendments to bail, discovery, and Raise the Age are not evidence-based interventions and will not increase community safety,” according to the letter. “Her plan, however, results in an explosion in the incarceration of New Yorkers, particularly poor people and people of color.”

Insha Rahman and Andre Ward of the Vera Institute of Justice and The Fortune Society, respectively, joined PIX11 Morning News to discuss the letter. They explained their organizations’ stances. “It rolls public safety by requiring more incarceration for lesser crimes that could be addressed by services and support from the government,” Rahman said.

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker proposed a hunger strike to highlight the importance of what these rollbacks would do if implemented. We know that crime has been on the uptake in New York and all over the country.

What's Happening With Bail Reform in New York

See us standing in the back.

We know that the safest communities have resources and that bail reform will not make us any safer, and we know that our Black and brown communities lack resources. A ten million dollar budget should go to the communities that need it the most. Let’s stop playing around about safety. We all want to be safe, but the truth is that the pushback on bail reform is wrong and that the process is unfair; it’s a bad policy and destructive to sneak this into the budget. Who is directly affected by this? Black and brown communities. Who will be spending time in jail? Black and brown communities. Hochul’s plan would let judges consider the defendant’s criminal records and past use or possession of firearms before setting or denying bail.

It would also expand the number of offenses for which bail could be set and allow teens caught with guns to be prosecuted in criminal court instead of family court, reversing provisions signed into law by the previous Governor in 2019. This plan is a gross injustice to the civil rights movement. Those who support this bill have used cases of individuals with mental health issues to push forward, but have they even attempted to figure out how to help them? We criminalize these individuals, and the media uses them as scapegoats to promote their rhetoric. The real issues are Covid, the lack of housing, mental health services, employment opportunities, resources, and programs for our youth to succeed in marginalized communities.

These are issues close to my heart since leaving so many women behind bars and visiting Rikers Island several times at the beginning of the year. This plan can only hurt the communities of poor, marginalized people, and it is so wrong.

Let’s stop playing politics and put people before prisons.

News and Social Media Coverage:
Legislative leaders push back on Gov. Hochul’s plans to revise NY’s bail laws | WAMC
Criminal rights organizations send Gov. Hochul letter, slam bail reform plan
No Bail, Less Hope: The Death of Kalief Browder | The Marshall Project
Why We Can’t Go Backwards on Bail Reform | New York Civil Liberties Union