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Advocates criticize bail reform rollbacks, call upon Cuomo and Legislature to pass further reforms

July 2, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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A group of NYS lawmakers and a coalition of racial justice, immigrant justice and decarceration advocates held a press conference on Thursday in which they blasted the “regressive” bail rollbacks that are about to be implemented, which they say will increase the populations on Rikers Island and other jails and prisons in New York.

“In the face of children and families being caged across the country because of the President, we see the same thing continuing to happen on Rikers Island,” said Assemblymember Latrice Walker. “These unfair rollbacks were allowed to move forward even when we all knew in our hearts that it was wrong. Mass incarceration has no place in our society anymore. We can no longer afford to miss the mark.”

During the press conference, coalition members condemned the Legislature’s actions and called on them to stop the rollbacks and pass a five-part criminal justice bill package that they say will reduce the incarcerated population.

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“For too long, the community that identifies as law and order has harmed, assaulted, pillaged and murdered people of color,” said Marvin Mayfield, statewide organizer at the Center for Community Alternatives. “Black life and Black pain does not matter to them. Bail rollbacks are nothing short of devastating for Black and Brown communities. We call on lawmakers to use every tool possible to halt these rollbacks and undo this harm.”

The five bills that are part of the package include one on elder parole, which would provide a path for the release of incarcerated people over the age of 55 who have already served 15 or more years in prison, for fair and timely parole, which would provide a more meaningful parole review; the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, which would end the “torture” of prolonged solitary confinement; the Repeal of Walking While Trans Act, which would end the criminalization of loitering for the purposes of prostitution, which advocates say targets transgender people of color; and the Protect our Court Act, which would make it unlawful for law enforcement officers to arrest a person for a civil violation while going to, attending or leaving a court.

“The Repeal of Walking While Trans Ban, HALT Solitary Act, and Protect our Courts Act all have more official legislative co-sponsors than the number of the votes needed to pass,” said a statement issued by the group. “These added measures would not only prevent COVID-19 from creating disaster in courts, jails, prisons, and detention facilities, but would also begin to reverse many of the damaging policies that have fueled mass criminalization, mass incarceration, and death by incarceration.”

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