Advocates criticize Gov’s bail plan as ‘unworkable’ & ‘cruel’ at ‘Ask a Lawyer’ booth

March 31, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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STATEWIDE — Legal advocates set up an “Ask a Lawyer” booth in the Legislative Office Building of the NYS Capitol on Tuesday that offered lawmakers and others an opportunity to learn why, they say, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s bail proposal would be a disaster for New York.

Over 100 law professors from every law school in the state joined them in taking aim at Gov. Hochul when they sent a letter to lawmakers that same day, urging them to reject the governor’s “cruel and ill-conceived” plan.

Arielle Reid, supervising attorney of the Decarceration Project at The Legal Aid Society, argued that Hochul’s proposal would invite further bias and inequality in an already plagued system. Eli Northrup, attorney and Policy Director for the Criminal Defense Practice at The Bronx Defenders, emphasized the importance of providing accurate information to dispel myths surrounding bail reform.

“Governor Hochul’s knee-jerk, politically expedient proposal to repeal decades of settled law and eliminate the entire standard from the bail statute would invite further bias and inequality in a system already plagued by both,” said Reid.

“Judges already have wide discretion, and this proposal would only add confusion, balloon jail populations statewide, fracture families and communities and undermine public safety. We urge legislators to reject the Governor’s cruel and misguided attempt to undue New York’s transformative bail reform law.”

Recent bail reform has been successful, according to the advocates, and law professors, sparing thousands from being held on bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges, keeping $104 million in communities and promoting stability and public safety.

The professors argued that Hochul’s plan would undo long-standing legislative principles and increase racial disparities and wealth-based detention. They also noted that the proposal would exacerbate confusion among judges and stakeholders.

Jocelyn Simonson, Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship at Brooklyn Law School, warned that Hochul’s proposal would perpetuate racism and unfairness in pretrial detention. Cynthia Godsoe, Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, called out the proposal’s ignorance of data and common sense, accusing it of pandering to fear-mongering and racialized politics.

“Gov. Hochul’s proposal to erode bail reform would only further cement the racism and unfairness inherent in the practice of pretrial detention,” Simonson said. “The proposed changes would give judges even more power to use racism–whether intentionally or not–to cage people because of the color of their skin. We should instead be moving in the other direction, toward recognizing that public safety can go hand in hand with freedom.”

“Reversing bail reform will not keep New Yorkers safe, but will increase racial disparities and the unnecessary incarceration of people just because they’re poor,” Godsoe added. “The Governor’s proposal ignores both data and common sense — instead it panders to ignorant fear-mongering and racialized ‘dog whistle’ politics.”

The Governor’s Executive Budget Bail Proposal seeks to eliminate the standard that judges set “the least restrictive” condition to ensure a person’s return to court. Critics argue that this change is unworkable, unconstitutional, and against decades of New York law.


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