By Julie McCaffrey and Claire Hsu
ALBANY, NY – A new revision of New York state’s cash bail rules, removing the requirement that judges use “the least restrictive conditions” when setting bail, was approved by the New York State Assembly and Senate a few weeks ago, according to The Hill.
Buffalo News writes that this resolution came after the April 1 budget deadline, and was 32 days late this year because of it.
According to Buffalo News, after winning this change Gov. Kathy Hochul announced she was “done with bail – under the circumstances that are before me today.” She later stated “we accomplished what we needed to do.”
CBS New York reports that, after approving the bail reform law, Hochul expressed her thoughts on the bail matter, affirming, “I believe that judges should have the authority to set bail and detain dangerous defendants, full stop.”
This reform was received with mixed sentiment, writes Buffalo News, noting bail reform advocates believed it weakened the law too much. Critics of the bill believed that judges should be allowed to consider the “dangerousness” of the accused.
According to The Hill, in 2019 former Gov. Andrew Cuomo authorized the passage of a law that restrained Judges from assigning bail to a large percentage of misdemeanor and felony criminal offenses and only allowed bail for those who have allegedly committed a violent felony or were re-arrested for another violation.
This law was motivated by the concerns that cash bail requirements discriminate against individuals who cannot come up with the money, reports The Hill. This includes people of color, who account for 66 percent of felony arrests and prison sentences in the state.
The Hill writes that amendments to the 2019 law restored judicial discretion in first degree larceny cases, second degree burglary, escape from custody, repeat offenders, failure to register as a third degree sex offender and a prior history of criminal convictions. These amendments were made in 2020 and 2022.
Violent crime in New York spiked in 2020, largely due to COVID, according to The Hill. The murder rate rose from 2.9 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2019 to 4.2 in 2020. Along with the increased murder rates, shootings doubled in New York City.
The Hill reports that, since 2021, the number of crimes in New York City decreased, leading the city to report having among the lowest homicide frequency compared to other top 50 largest cities in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In fact, numerous studies uncovered no direct evidence linking bail reform to increases in crime, writes The Hill. Under the bail reform laws, only one person released between January and June 2020 was charged with a shooting, according to New York City Police Department data.
The Hill added the New York City comptroller revealed rearrests of individuals awaiting trials were nearly identical before and after the implementation of reforms, noting out of 100,000 cases involving pre-trial release between July 2020 and June 2021 related to the revised legislation, only two percent of violent felony defendants were rearrested, according to the Times Union.
According to CBS New York, NY Mayor Eric Adams wants Gov. Hochul to focus on addressing recidivists, asserting, “That is a real issue… there was a lack of clarity on how the judges can use their powers to ensure that they do not repeatedly harm innocent people in this city.”