REPORT: The Impact of Bail Reform on Recidivism in New York City ‘Minimal’ 

PC:Nick Young

By Bryan Miller and Joey Lo 

NEW YORK, NY – John Jay College’s Data Collaborative for Justice (DCJ), in a study of the “ramifications of New York’s bail reform in suburban and upstate regions,” the third installment of its “Bail Reform and Recidivism Series,” has found “a minimal overall impact on recidivism…depending on people’s charges and criminal histories.” 

René Ropac, a “Senior Research Associate/Researcher for/with the Data Collaborative for Justice” states, “Consistent with our prior research, we found that the effects of bail reform vary significantly across different subgroups.

“The law increased recidivism for people facing more serious charges and with recent criminal histories. Conversely, mandatory release decreased recidivism for people charged with misdemeanors and people with no recent criminal history.”

From “comparing re-arrest rates for people who had bail set or were remanded at arraignment during the first half of 2019 (before bail reform) with similar people who were released without bail in the first half of 2020 (after bail reform),” the DCJ study indicated, “Bail reform yielded minimal changes in overall recidivism rates over a two-year tracking period.” 

Elaborating on this “minimal overall impact”, the team stated, “Eliminating bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies yielded no changes in overall re-arrest or felony re-arrest rates, except for a marginal increase in firearm re-arrest.” 

While the team found minimal change for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, it did note in the report “it was associated with a marginal increase in firearm re-arrest” and that a one percentage-point increase in violent felony re-arrest over two years became statistically insignificant when extending the follow-up period to 30 months. 

When speaking on subgroup effects the DCJ would report, “The elimination of bail led to increased recidivism among those charged with nonviolent felonies or with a prior arrest in the past year. Conversely, it decreased recidivism for those charged with misdemeanors or lacking any such recent criminal history.” 

Additionally, the authors said, “Reducing the use of bail for eligible cases tended to increase recidivism among people with a prior violent felony arrest in the past year, and among people currently charged with violent felonies and with a past-year prior arrest.” 

While comparing to the results from former studies, the DCJ reported previous studies “found that the elimination of bail reduced recidivism…the current study for the suburbs and upstate found little overall effect in either direction.”

In a comparison, the study reported “a consistent trend spanning both studies was that bail reform tended to reduce recidivism for people facing less serious charges and with limited or no criminal history,” adding, bail reform “tended to increase recidivism for people facing more serious charges and with recent criminal histories.”

Michael Rempel, the Director of the DCJ, concludes the report saying, “Each new study casts further doubt on the idea that bail reform drove crime and recidivism increases during the pandemic.” 

Rempel added, “Yet at the margins, the current results appear less positive for bail reform than in New York City, where eliminating bail produced significant recidivism reductions. Whether differences between regions reflect especially horrific jail conditions in the City leading detention to be extra harmful, resource constraints outside the City hindering the provision of pretrial services, or other factors, is a critical question.”

About The Author

Bryan Miller is a fourth year political science - public service major at UC Davis. He has a desire to pursue law in the future and has a large interest in the justice system and constitutional law. In his free time Bryan likes to spend time outdoors fishing and hiking.

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