Governor Hochul’s recently proposed changes to the state’s bail laws will greatly impact the long-sought criminal justice reforms that JustLeadershipUSA and other New York-based groups successfully advocated for in 2019. These proposed changes are driven by fear and will roll back the progress we’ve made to make the criminal justice system more equitable.
Governor Hochul’s 10-point public safety plan proposes increased discretion for judges utilizing past criminal histories in determinations. This opposes a core demand of JLUSA and advocates as many Black and Brown New Yorkers have been subject to unfair racial profiling –such as stop and frisk policies– that have led to unfair detainment and past law enforcement encounters. Governor Hochul’s proposal will continue the harmful legacy of criminalizing poverty on the premises of “guilt before proven innocence” for some. The proposed changes will also subject these communities to pretrial detainment, which jeopardizes a person of losing housing and employment and is especially dangerous at a time when the system is still dealing with an immense crisis in their facilities, such as Riker’s Island.
The proposed changes to the state’s bail laws are a misguided attempt at addressing public safety when there is very little evidence to link the increase in crime to the bail reform laws. Instead, these proposed measures will have a harmful effect on low-income and New Yorkers of color, as well as formerly incarcerated and other justice-impacted individuals.
JLUSA commends the New York State Legislature for its commitment to transforming the state’s criminal legal system that serves to protect all New Yorkers, regardless of economic class or prior involvement with the justice system. We will continue to work with our partners in elected office and with community members to ensure that New York’s system contributes to, and serves as an example for a more just US.