New York City

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker has been on a hunger strike over bail reform

April 14, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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CITYWIDE — A passionate rally took place Thursday in Foley Square as state legislators, Rikers Island survivors, and those who have lost loved ones at Rikers gathered to protect the successful bail reform law.

The state budget has been delayed by nearly two weeks due to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s insistence on using it to force changes to the bail laws, which would increase pre-trial jailing. Among the participants was Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, who’s on hunger strike to protest the Governor’s plan.

“I will do everything in my power to keep more Black, brown and poor people from being incarcerated pretrial in dangerous jails across the state,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “Locking up more people pretrial will not make anyone safer. We need to focus on real investments in public safety, including alternatives to incarceration, pretrial services, violence interruption, substance use treatment, secure housing, mental health treatment, job training and education. Hands off bail reform.”

In 2021, Gov. Hochul called Rikers Island “hell on earth” and acknowledged the need for change. The bail reform law has since spared more than 24,000 people from pre-trial jailing on misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges, leading to a decline in re-arrest rates and an increase in court appearance rates.

Gov. Hochul has held up the state budget to push for changes to the bail laws. Rally participants called for proven policies to make New York safer, such as protections against arbitrary evictions, rental assistance, extended unemployment support, additional funding for mental health first responders and investments in anti-violence programs.

“I represent a community that is 90% Black and brown and I’m here to tell you that it is fake news when you try to argue that bail reform is responsible for a spike in crime,” said Assemblywoman Monique Chandler-Waterman, who represents Assembly District 58. “Removing the least restrictive standard will open the door to more of the same — more Black and brown people being caged. We need support and funding. Let’s focus on that. The safest communities have the most resources, let’s focus on that.”Various advocates, legislators, and union representatives have spoken out against Gov. Hochul’s bail proposal. Over 100 law professors from every law school in New York State penned a letter opposing the plan, and leading unions UAW Region 9A and DC37 have called on lawmakers to reject it.

Rally participants on Thursday urged lawmakers to reject changes to the bail law and instead invest in resources that will improve community safety.

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