Advocates applaud legislative leaders for rejecting gov’s proposal to weaken bail laws

March 15, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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STATEWIDE — Advocates and organizers at the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) have applauded New York State’s legislative leaders for rejecting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Executive Budget proposal on bail.

The CCA’s Director of Advocacy and Organizing, Katie Schaffer, released a statement in response to the Senate one-house budget that removed Governor Hochul’s proposal.

“We applaud our legislative leaders for rejecting Governor Hochul’s ill-conceived and dangerous proposal to weaken New York’s bail reform laws,” Schaffer said. “New Yorkers deserve real solutions to create stronger and safer communities, not political ploys that will send more Black, brown and working-class New Yorkers to jail pretrial, increase wrongful convictions, and destabilize individuals and communities. We urge New York’s legislature to stand strong in your commitment to the facts and evidence-based solutions for community safety.”

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On Tuesday afternoon, the State Senate Democrats rejected Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed overhaul of bail reform and in a non-binding budget resolution.

The CCA has been at the forefront of advocating for bail reform in New York State, and they believe that the available data shows that bail reform has been successful in reducing pre-trial jailing and increasing court appearance rates without impacting re-arrest rates.

The CCA’s criticism of Governor Hochul’s proposal centers on the fact that the changes to the bail laws are unrelated to crime rates. The proposal’s justification as an attempt to provide clarity and remove confusion for judges is, according to Schaffer, a solution in search of a problem.

The proposed changes would eliminate the longstanding requirement that judges set “the least restrictive” condition that “will reasonably assure [a person’s] return to court” when making a pretrial release determination. Instead, judges would be left with a list of factors to consider and no standard whatsoever to guide their decision-making, she said.

The CCA argues that individual judges would be left to rely on their own biases and make up the law as they go, further entrenching poverty and inequity, and ultimately making New York less safe. Furthermore, a representative from the Office of Court Administration testified that judges are not confused by the current standard, which has been in place for decades.

Schaffer and the CCA are urging New York’s legislature to continue to rely on evidence-based solutions for community safety rather than political ploys. The CCA’s advocacy efforts have been instrumental in achieving bail reform in New York State, and they hope to continue to make progress in this area to ensure a fair and just criminal justice system for all New Yorkers.

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