PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
#FREEnewyork Statewide Campaign Responds to Assembly Passage of A.10137A (Walker) – calls for end to money bail for all cases
Directly impacted communities, grassroots organizations, elected leaders, criminal justice reform advocates, faith leaders & anti-violence groups call for bail overhaul and end to race & wealth-based incarceration.
June 14, 2018 –
On Tuesday, the New York State Assembly passed A.10137A – a one-house bail proposal. As a campaign led by people directly impacted by New York’s jail crisis, #FREEnewyork recognizes the urgent need for bail reform in New York State, and the intention of this bill to do good. We also know that New York can and must do more. Many of the Assemblymembers who voted affirmatively for A.10137A shared in their verbal testimony that they believe final bail reform legislation must be more robust, and that New York State must do more to address the bail crisis. While A.10137A represents a step forward in the fight for decarceration – it does not end money bail or protect against wealth and race-based discrimination in the pretrial system. We cannot leave in place a bail system that targets and harms people of color, justice involved people and people experiencing poverty. We cannot allow the decision to set money bail – and therefore jail legally innocent people – to be based on charges alone, allowing power to remain in the hands of police and prosecutors without due process protections. New York State must build upon the energy of this moment and grassroots momentum to end cash bail in all cases and ensure that neither broad preventive detention nor harmful technology – like algorithm-based risk assessment tools, electronic and GPS monitoring, etc. – take its place.
Over the past five years, more than 1 million people have been processed through New York State’s jails. On any given day, 25,000 New Yorkers are being caged in counties across the state. Most of them are legally innocent, but jailed as they await their day in court because they cannot afford to pay bail. A money bail system says that ‘only people with resources deserve a fair shot at justice as they fight their cases from home, with access to family and legal support.’ Money bail communicates that poor people don’t deserve fairness as they walk into court shackled, in a jumpsuit, with a $2,000 bail. Regardless of the truth – they appear much more ‘guilty’ than a person who walks in from their car, in a suit and tie.
The protections and reforms offered by A.10137A should be expanded to apply to all people and all charges. New York State must transform the bail system and treat all people accused of crimes as worthy of release, fairness and the presumption of innocence. Every person whose case is under consideration for detention must be afforded a robust, evidentiary, individualized hearing. Short of that, people will be stripped of their rights and of their freedom without having had access to the due process they’re promised by our Constitution. Bail proposals that meet this gold standard of reform are active in both the New York State Senate and Assembly– S3579A (Gianaris) / A5033A (O’Donnell) – and are the most groundbreaking bail legislation in the country. New York State has the powerful opportunity to lead in the national movement for real bail reform. The #FREEnewyork campaign, our statewide partners, leaders and allies – will continue to organize our communities and hold New York State accountable to the life-saving overhaul and real bail and pretrial reform that our communities urgently need.
#FREEnewyork statewide campaign partners & Elected Officials said the following:
“I thank Assemblywoman Walker and the NYS Assembly for their efforts on bail reform,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “We have a unique opportunity in this moment to end a system that perpetrates injustice against thousands of less fortunate New Yorkers. Now is the time to eliminate cash bail so we can end a system where the poor are deemed guilty until proven innocent.”
“It’s time for New York to completely overhaul our bail policies,” said Assemblymember Dan Quart. “Our current practices have created a two-tiered justice system where people with means are afforded due process, and people who are poor are incarcerated. Due process should not be something you have to buy. We need true, comprehensive bail reform and unfortunately A.10137A simply does not go far enough. This legislation permits bail for misdemeanors as well as the use of ankle bracelets and other supervisory services for people who are presumed innocent. Passing weaker legislation that does not fundamentally address the destructiveness of bail will ultimately harm efforts to completely end cash bail. We must work together to transform bail in New York and make our justice system more equitable.”
“I applaud the NYS Assembly, specifically Assemblywoman Walker for passing this bill that provides the first step to adequate bail reform,” said Senator Jamaal Bailey. “Currently, the bail system in New York State discriminates against the poor and has perpetuated the issue of overcrowded jails. Instead of our criminal justice system being focused on ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ it has allowed wealth to determine liberty. We need to ensure that New York State becomes a no cash bail system.”
“I am encouraged by the passage of this bill as it acknowledges the critical need for reform to our broken criminal justice system – and our bail system in particular,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “I commend my colleagues in the Assembly and Assemblymember Walker for taking action to address the issue of mass jailing. We have an exciting and important opportunity to go further and pass legislation that ends the money bail system completely. I commend the #FREEnewyork campaign for their efforts to overhaul our State’s bail system, especially in favor of low-income New Yorkers, as no one should be forced to sit in jail awaiting trial or plea to a crime they did not commit simply because they are poor. I look forward to building this momentum to pass legislation that will end money bail for all.”
“New York State has a tale of two justice systems: One in which the wealthy rarely see the inside of a jail and the other where the poor and people of color linger for months and even years in jail because of a discriminatory bail system that says charges filed by police and prosecutors are enough to subject a person to the torture of incarceration” said Darren Mack, NYS Policy Organizer, JustLeadershipUSA and the #CLOSErikers Campaign. “It is unconscionable to move forward with exclusionary ‘bail reform’ that will leave New Yorkers held ransom on the Abu Ghraib of NYC a.k.a. Rikers Island, and in county jails across the state. My direct experience with the legal punishment system will not forget those who some may deem “unworthy of relief” just for political expediency. We need bail system overhaul that mass decarcerates our jails and protects the Constitutional rights of all people to remedy decades of unjust and antiquated practices. And directly impacted communities will make that need a reality.”
“This isn’t the bill that we want but we do appreciate some movement in the right direction. This bill leaves out a whole bunch of individuals who will be exposed to cash bail, and leaves prosecutors with too much power to keep people in jail based only on speculation — not proof,” said Roger Clark, Community Leader at VOCAL-NY. “We need to protect as many people as possible and ensure that everyone has their right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.”
“Impacted communities have made their voices loud and clear on this issue. We need to eliminate a system of cash bail that punishes low-income people and people of color. Partial reforms won’t fix the problem, said Rosemary Rivera, Organizing Director for Citizen Action of New York. “Our elected leaders must protect the presumption of innocence and the right to freedom for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, ability, personal wealth, or social status. A10137A falls short of delivering the comprehensive reforms our communities have been waiting for. New York must take action and pass the bold legislative overhaul that we are calling for.”
“We need bail reform that does not repeat the mistakes of our past. By passing a bail bill that ignores these mistakes we only make the eventual reform that much harder to reach,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “New York must be a national leader here. We strongly encourage Albany to pass more comprehensive bail reform legislation that does just that. Only then can we make sure that all people facing pre-trial detention can prepare for their day in court without limitations that hinder low-income and Latino communities.”
“It saddens our hearts to know that our government is satisfied with legislation that continues to lock up poor people, predominantly black and brown citizens, before they are proven guilty or innocent. Meanwhile, rich men like Harvey Weinstein can pay for their freedom. We won’t have justice until we end the practice of wealth-based detention and abolish money bail completely,” said Ashaina Cumberbatch, Senior Director of Racial Justice at New York Communities for Change. “We promise we will fight ferociously until we overhaul bail and have justice and freedom for our people.”
“The Assembly’s passage of A.10137A represents an acknowledgement from elected leaders that the need for bail reform is both urgent, and necessary. However, people directly impacted by mass pretrial incarceration know that the real impact of this bill is the continuation of a two-tiered justice system: one system for those with money, and another for those without,’ said Erin L. George, NYS Campaign Coordinator, JustLeadershipUSA and the #FREEnewyork Campaign. “As a person whose family has been directly affected by the U.S.’s punitive and criminalizing money bail system, I know first-hand the devastation that results from a bail system that only offers pretrial freedom and a fair shot at justice to those who can afford to pay bail, and denies it those who can’t. We must not accept partial reforms that continue to invest in the charge-based carve-out policies that created the crisis of pretrial incarceration– because partial reforms leave people behind. Grassroots campaigns like #FREEnewyork are leading powerful bail reform efforts that reject mass pretrial detention and harmful “alternatives” to money bail that threaten to entrench criminalization. We will continue to build the power and influence necessary to achieve real bail and pretrial reform for all New Yorkers.”
“New York desperately needs to end money bail and the corrupt bail bonds industry that preys on New Yorkers who can’t afford to pay for their freedom,’ said Scott Roberts, Senior Director of Criminal Justice Campaigns, Color Of Change. “It is encouraging to see the Assembly responding to the demands of impacted communities to keep our families together and free from economic exploitation but A10137A does not go far enough. We need to fully transform this system by eliminating money bail completely. Anything short of that, leaves poor and Black and Brown communities vulnerable to wealth and race-based detention and the bail in industry’s debt trap.”
“At the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, every day we see firsthand the damage wrought on individuals and entire communities for the inability to afford bail. Men and women – overwhelming black and brown – are imprisoned for their poverty alone or are coerced to trade a guilty plea for their freedom,” said Peter Goldberg, Executive Director, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. “While we’ve paid bail for over 3,000 New Yorkers in need, we know that bail funds are not – and never will be – the solution to a system that imprisons tens of thousands of New Yorkers every year. Bringing an end to this injustice requires abolishing money bail and all forms of racist and wealth-based detention, and severely limiting all forms of pretrial incarceration, supervision, or surveillance.”
“As public defenders in Erie County, we witness the negative effects of money bail on them, their families and their communities every day. The time spent in jail before a trial can unravel the lives of defendant’s in significant ways, said Rebecca Town, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo. “Most of my clients are either in the throws of poverty or climbing their way out of poverty. They are working service level positions where if you’re gone for a day you lose your job. People who depend on them, children or elderly relatives are left without caretakers. Clients who did have stable housing rent lose it when they can’t pay in time. Many defendants can’t scrape together the money to bail out of jail, so they’ll take a plea to anything that gets them out and back to their jobs and families, even if they’re innocent. We know this is not Justice and we know it does not have to remain this way.”
“As a Black-led, membership-based organization of primarily low-to-moderate income Central Brooklyn residents, we understand the importance of transforming the racially disparate and wealth-based system of money bail into a system that actually advances justice. As a result, we cannot accept the status quo and keep so much power in the hands of police and prosecutors,” said Anthonine Pierre, Deputy Director, Brooklyn Movement Center. “While we applaud the efforts of the NYS Assembly and Assemblymember Walker specifically, we seek a more effective policy solution. We believe we can and will do better.”
“A few weeks ago New Yorkers watched the injustice of our money bail system at work. Harvey Weinstein was able to walk in and out of jail because he could easily post $1 million bond, while thousands of other New Yorkers charged with less serious crimes languished in jail because they are poor. This is an offense to our Constitutional and moral values,” said Rev. Emily McNeill, Executive Director, Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS. “Every person deserves to be treated innocent until proven guilty – regardless of class or race. Money bail has no place in a just society, and it’s time for New York to end it.
“Our upstate communities desperately need bail and pretrial reform, because we tend to get high bails, fewer non-bail releases, and more pretrial incarceration,” said Naomi Jaffe, Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration (CAAMI). “Unfortunately the bill that just passed the Assembly does not solve the problem, because it lexempts many legally innocent defendants from its benefits based solely on charges brought against them at the discretion of the prosecutor. We have also found that for many — again, these are pre-trial, legally innocent people — electronic monitoring is as onerous as a jail cell.”
“A.10137A’s carve-outs maintain a system that harms survivors of intimate partner violence. At the New York City Anti-Violence Project, we provide services for LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence, and when money bail is imposed, survivors are often harmed. Pre-trial detention and money bail for both survivors and perpetrators increases financial stress, which can lead to further violence, which can be physical, financial, and emotional,” said Audacia Ray, Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. “In situations where violence occurs in a same gender couple, or when one or more people are transgender or gender non-conforming, police often do not do the primary aggressor assessment well, leading to the arrest of survivors presumed to be perpetrators of violence. Finally, when LGBTQ people are arrested and held on bail, they are at risk of sexual violence from the police and especially in jail. Bail reform must protect the survivors of violence who are often criminalized.”
“Metro Justice is a member-driven, grassroots organization dedicated to achieving social, economic, and racial justice in Rochester. Mass jailing and New York State’s current bail law are key drivers of the incredible wealth inequality and poverty that our city experiences,” said Aaron Micheau, President, Metro Justice Council. “New York State must take bold legislative action to correct this injustice. Elimination of monetary bail, and due process protections, as provided for under S3579A and A5033A, are the step that we must take right now to ensure that our criminal justice system works for everyone – regardless of wealth – and does not unfairly penalize people of color.”
“While we are encouraged that the New York State Assembly passed A. 10137A in recognition of the dire need for criminal justice reform, its failure to end money bail perpetuates a system that has a disproportionately harmful impact on vulnerable and lower income populations,” said Andrea Panjwani, Director of Legal Services at Center for Safety and Change. “Our clients are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking from all walks of life. A significant percentage of our trafficking clients have been arrested for prostitution-related and other crimes because they have been forced or coerced to participate in illegal activities, and others on the basis of false allegations or crimes related to survival (such as stealing food to feed children after fleeing an abusive partner). Survivors who find themselves in this situation have been isolated, do not have access to money, and are dealing with profound trauma. Their inability to afford bail often translates into excessive pre-trial detention, separation from and trauma to their children, loss of jobs, homelessness, interruption of medical treatment and adverse immigration consequences. Middle and upper income people arrested for the same crimes never have to face these collateral consequences simply because they can afford bail – this undermines all notions of equal justice, causes greater harm in communities of color and does nothing to make our communities safer.”
“Anything short of ending money bail is not enough,” said Shaketa Redden Co-Director of Black Love Resists in the Rust// Just Resisting. “This country was built on the capital of Black bodies and this pretrial system continues to function in the same way – both here in Buffalo and across the state. We are criminalizing race and poverty and that is not justice. No one deserves to be in cages this system need to be broken.”
“The movement to end mass incarceration will never be successful with half-step, exclusionary measures,” said Laura Whitehorn, Organizer, Release Aging People in Prison Campaign (RAPP). “Just as many parole initiatives exclude whole classes of people based on crime, A.10137A creates a dichotomy between who is deserving of justice and who isn’t. We stand and fight with #FREEnewyork in pursuit of a true end to cash bail and policy initiatives that benefit all people in prison and jail.”
“A.10137A is a small and meaningful step in addressing the impact that one experiences when jailed for “minor infractions. Impacts such as job loss, loss of one’s children and more,” said Vanessa Green, Black Lives Matter Hudson Valley. “BLM Hudson Valley urges New York State’s elected leaders to begin rich and sincere dialogues with the communities most negatively impacted by the cash bail system and high incarceration rates, to acknowledge the harm and struggles endured by communities facing disparate arrest and criminalization and to take legislative action to enact solutions that will bring healing, freedom and self-determination to those most impacted by the criminal ‘injustice’ system.”
“Bail reform is very much a social justice issue,” said Nada Khader, Executive Director, WESPAC Foundation. “WESPAC has been a leading force for social change in Westchester County since 1974. We educate, agitate and organize for a more just and peaceful world, an end to militarism and racism and a more fair economy that works for all. New Yorkers urgently need to end money bail and protect against race and income-based discrimination in our pretrial system.”
“Cash bail must be eliminated for all people and charges. We must give meaning to the constitutional rights that are intended to protect all, not just those with money,” said Mark Mishler, a long-time criminal defense attorney in Albany. “Many people are harmed by being held in jail prior to trial just because they do not have the financial resources to make bail. Lost jobs, lost housing, lack of coordinated medical care, not to mention the damage done to families by having a family member incarcerated. Plus, it is much more difficult for an accused person to participate fully in their defense if they are sitting in jail.”
“Half-measures are not acceptable when people’s lives and livelihoods are threatened because of their skin color or economic status,” said Rynn Reed, Organizer, Roc ACTS (Rochester ACTS). “The New York State Assembly is responsible for setting the bar for progressive legislation. In this political climate and under this current administration, it is not acceptable for a state like New York to pass legislation that is progressive in name only but does nothing to change the system and disrupt the status-quo. We expect better from our elected officials and we intend to hold them accountable this election season.”
“At STEPS to End Family Violence, our Criminalized Survivors Program offers holistic support to survivors of intimate partner violence who are detained at Rikers Island. Our work underscores the objective truth that legions of trauma survivors – victims of domestic violence, childhood physical and sexual abuse, and more – are detained in jails. Caging trauma survivors in an institution that exacerbates and triggers trauma symptoms disrupts healing and separates survivors from family, community, and community-based trauma treatment during a deeply disruptive time in their lives – the agonizing pre-trial period,” said Anne Patterson, Division Director, STEPS to End Family Violence. “True bail reform that eliminates money bail is one way that the criminal legal system could start moving towards being trauma-informed.”
“The Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) aims to end the torture of solitary confinement for all people and seeks more humane and effective alternatives. Solitary is one of the many injustices and abuses people held in jail pre-trial frequently have to endure. To stop people from being subjected to solitary and the abuse of jail itself, CAIC supports real bail reform and other efforts to achieve pretrial justice for all.”
“While the Assembly took an important step towards reforming New York’s bail system by passing the Walker bill, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action New York stands with the #FREEnewyork coalition to say that this bill does not go far enough. New Yorkers need groundbreaking bail reform that directly impacted communities are calling for, such as the Gianaris/O’Donnell bill (S3579A/A5033A),” said Kayla Glick, Field and Digital Organizer, Bend the Arc. “As Jews, we believe that every person is deserving of safety, dignity, and equality — and we’re called by these values to continue fighting for strong reform that will overhaul a wealth-based detention system that disproportionately impacts poor people and communities of color.”
While action to address New York’s pretrial incarceration crisis is long overdue, this legislation betrays the fundamental values guiding the fight for meaningful bail reform,” said Elena Weissman, Director, Bronx Freedom Fund. “We must remain committed to ending wealth-based detention for all New Yorkers without carveouts. Over the last decade, almost all of our clients have returned to court out of their own will, regardless of charge or demographics, demonstrating that electronic surveillance and other onerous conditions are simply unnecessary. We will continue working with community partners for reforms that truly uphold the presumption of innocence and don’t recreate the same racial disparities and harms under a different form.”