PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
#FREEnewyork STATEWIDE PROTESTS DEMAND THAT GOVERNOR CUOMO & NYS LEGISLATURE END NEW YORK’S JAIL CRISIS
Directly Impacted Communities and Grassroots Organizations Lead Juneteenth Protests at Jails & Courts from NYC to Buffalo Demanding BOLD Action and Overhaul of Bail, Discovery and Speedy Trial Laws
June 19, 2018 — Today – at #FREEnewyork Juneteenth Protests at Courthouses and Jails across New York, directly impacted people stand up and demand emancipation from mass incarceration and criminalization. On a day that commemorates the abolition of slavery, activists, community leaders, and concerned citizens held protests at courts and jails across New York State to demand that Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature take action to boldly overhaul the pretrial system of bail, discovery, and speedy trial to end the state’s jail crisis. 25,000 New Yorkers languish in jails across the state on any given day – nearly 70% are caged in jail as they wait for their trials – punished while legally innocent. The cost of caging New Yorkers in county jails costs nearly $2.5 billion per year. This is in addition to the $3.7 billion per year New Yorkers spend annually on state prisons. In its current state, New York’s pretrial system causes devastating harm to individuals, families, and communities, disproportionately harming people experiencing poverty, Black people, and people of color, including immigrants. People must have every opportunity for a fair shot at justice and freedom. We won’t stand for mass pretrial incarceration, guilty until proven innocent, & a price on our freedom.
Directly impacted people across New York State have built a powerful grassroots movement to end the jail crisis. #FREEnewyork has created bold momentum for transformation bail and discovery reform by unapologetically bringing our demands to Albany. JustLeadershipUSA has stood firm in supporting bold bail overhaul, while rejecting proposals that include carve-outs, don’t end money bail and inflict further harm. Unless New York State ends money bail for all charges, dramatically limits broad pretrial detention and protects against criminalization and harmful alternatives by ensuring due process protections for all people, power to set bail and jail people pretrial will remain in the hands of police and prosecutors. We will not accept this injustice and violation of our rights and freedom. No one should be jailed because they cannot afford bail. No one should wait months or years for trial. No one should be denied critical evidence about their case.
New York City’s #FREEnewyork Juneteenth protest at Foley Square in Manhattan was held in concert with statewide campaign protests in: Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton, Poughkeepsie, and Nassau County.
#FREEnewyork Juneteenth Protests were led by JustLeadershipUSA in partnership with directly impacted communities and leading grassroots organizations across New York State: Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Bronx Freedom Fund, Citizen Action of New York, LatinoJustice PRLDF, New York Communities for Change, VOCAL-New York, PUSH Buffalo, OPEN Buffalo, Black Love Resists in the Rust, Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration, Metro Justice, Enough is Enough, Black Lives Matter – Hudson Valley, End the New Jim Crow, and Bend the Arc.
- Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature must take legislative action to boldly overhaul the pretrial system – bail, discovery and speedy trial laws by passing S3579A/A5033A (Gianaris/O’Donnell) and S7722/A10135 (Bailey/Benjamin/Blake)
- New York’s bail law must be overhauled to eliminate wealth and race-based jailing, guarantee individualized justice and due process, and protect against destructive pseudo-reforms like pretrial risk assessment tools, charge based carve-outs, and excessive pretrial oversight (like unnecessary or broad pretrial program plans, electronic and GPS monitoring.
- New York’s discovery law must be overhauled to ensure open, early, automatic & mandatory disclosure of key case evidence, so that defendants have the information they need to prepare their case & make decisions.
- New York’s speedy trial law must be overhauled so that it truly protects the right to a fair and speedy trial.
- DAs and judges must be accountable: No one should be incarcerated because they cannot afford bail. No one should wait months or years for trial. No one should be denied critical evidence about their case.
#FREEnewyork statewide campaign leaders and partners said the following:
“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. We expect Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to pass not just any reform, but rather legislation that truly overhauls bail, speedy trial, and discovery law in New York.
“On Juneteenth 2018, BLM Hudson Valley urges New York State’s elected leaders to begin rich and sincere dialogues with the communities most negatively impacted by the money 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,” said Vanessa Green, Black Lives Matter Hudson Valley.
“Much of the talk around incarceration focuses on men,” said Roni Minter, Founder of Sistas Healing Old Wounds, Inc in the Capital Region. “But thousands of women across New York State are trapped in jail because they’re too poor to afford bail. They often have to deal with abuse and degrading treatment. To achieve justice for women, for the poor, and for Black and Brown communities, we need to end money bail once and for all.”
“New Yorkers are in desperate need of discovery law overhaul,” said Prince Jackson, a #FREEnewyork Campaign leader in Nassau County. “As a person who was incarcerated in the Suffolk County jail for two years pretrial, I know this personally. By New York’s regressive discovery law, prosecutors are not required to turn over all the evidence until right before you go to trial. This makes it impossible to adequately prepare for your defense and is a violation of the most basic due process. Albany must act. We cannot abide by a system that incarcerates people for years without cause. On this Juneteenth, we ask New York’s elected officials to take a pledge for true freedom and justice. Pass bail, discovery, and speedy trial overhaul now.”
Today, as we celebrate freedom from slavery, we must name the injustice of New York’s system of mass incarceration,” said Richardo Adams of the Rochester Flying Squirrel. “In Monroe County alone, 1,300 people are locked up in our county jail everyday – the vast majority there simply because they cannot afford bail. Today, in memory of the last enslaved people finally hearing they were free, we stand with our incarcerated brothers and sisters. In 1863, the call to action was emancipation. Today, it is decarceration. Albany, black communities across the state are looking to you. We demand transformative bail, speedy trial and discovery law reform.”
“Today, on Juneteenth, we say no more,” Said Marvin Mayfield, #FREEnewyork Campaign leader in New York City. “We will not stand for mass pretrial incarceration. We will not stand for a money bail system that puts a price on our freedom. We will not stand for I am proud to stand before you as a leader of the #FREEnewyork campaign. Together, we are building the power and leadership of New Yorkers most harmed by incarceration and demanding fundamental change to New York’s pretrial system. Inspired by the continued legacy of Black liberation and Black resistance, we demand an end to wealth and race-based incarceration. We demand bail, discovery, and speedy trial overhaul in Albany.
The #FREEnewyork campaign was formed in 2017 to unapologetically advance real solutions to the crisis of mass incarceration in New York State. Led by JustLeadershipUSA, in partnership with statewide organizations and directly impacted communities, #FREEnewyork is building the power and leadership of New Yorkers most harmed by incarceration and demanding fundamental change to our failed criminal justice system. By boldly challenging the status quo, we will achieve the justice that New Yorkers deserve.