NY Lawmakers Miss Another Budget Deadline, as Conflicts over Bail Reform Heat Up
By Yehudit Garmaise
New York state lawmakers passed an extension Monday to complete their 2023 budget, as they continue to passionately debate whether 2019’s bail reform contributes to New York's spike in violent crime.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, many legislators, and many New Yorkers say that New York’s bail reform, which eliminated bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent charges must be amended because the criminals who are no longer subject to bail quickly return to the streets to perpetrate more crime.
While those who support changes to 2019's bail reform would prefer those dangerous criminals stay in jail, many Democrats and progressives are pleased with current bail reform, and see no reason to change it.
“The data continues to reflect that the changes we made in bail are not correlated to the growth in gun violence or physical violence towards others on the streets,” state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-28th District) told Gothamist.
New York State Comptroller Brad Lander, however, released a report days ago, in which he found that the 2019 bail reform did not, in fact, make bail more affordable, and it did not prevent jail time for those still subject to bail.
Instead of supporting bail reform, however, Lander has asked legislators to invest in programs that prevent crime and promote community safety, reported News12BX.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said that those who oppose the bail reform are merely using the 2019 law as a “scapegoat” for the statewide spike in violence.
Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, dismisses calls for bail reform by saying the spike in crime is seen not just in New York, but nationally.
While Mayor Adams and Gov. Hochul, who have both created detailed plans to reduce crime in New York, support bail reform and have asked for judges, who set bail, to be able to consider the extent to which defendants are too dangerous to be quickly returned to the streets.
But many progressive legislators say that “other measures,” such as increasing the number of residential psychiatric beds and shelter beds, as State Sen. Krueger suggested.
Assembly Member Latrice Walker, a Democrat, who represents the 55th Assembly District in Brooklyn, in February held up a sign that equated bail reform with slavery, Jim Crow laws, and mass incarceration of people of color, and then went on a two-week hunger strike to show her disapproval over proposed changes to bail reform.
Republicans, however, have repeatedly linked cashless bail to spikes in violent crime across the state.
“No New Yorker should ever feel unsafe in their homes, neighborhoods and local communities,” New York Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) said in January. “It’s time to restore common sense and public safety to our state now.”