ALBANY — Governor Hochul is confident her proposals to toughen New York’s bail laws will make it to the state budget despite pushback from progressives and criminal justice advocates.
The governor released new crime statistics Wednesday as she brought together law enforcement officials and fellow Democrats who support her plan to again amend the state’s controversial 2019 bail reform law, this time removing language that requires Judges impose the “least restrictive” conditions to ensure that a defendant will return to court.
“It’s common sense and it won’t sacrifice the progress we’ve made to ensure that our overall justice system is fairer,” the governor said during a briefing at the state Capitol. “I think it’s the right thing to do and I look forward to working with the Legislature on this change.”
Hochul did not rule out delaying the budget process to include bail changes in the final tax plan, pointing to new crime statistics that show that while murders and shootings are down overall in New York in 2022, the crime rate , including robbery, rape and assault, increased 10% compared to the previous year.
Property crime, such as burglary, larceny and carjacking, also increased 24% last year compared to 2021.
“I am sure we will be able to come up with a budget on time, but if we don’t it will be because there are ongoing discussions on issues that I consider extremely important,” Hochul said.
The budget deadline is March 31, one week from Friday.
Hochul’s proposal, part of his $227 billion draft budget, has faced opposition from some of his fellow Democrats, as well as advocates who say the change would essentially destroy the existing system, meant to ensure that defendants poor are not imprisoned simply for being poor.
The governor claims the “least restrictive” clause, which predates 2019 reforms that limited pretrial detention for most nonviolent crimes, has led to confusion among judges after changes included in the budget for the year past ordered jurists to weigh a number of other factors when considering bail.
The law was amended in 2020 to make more crimes eligible for bail, such as murder and criminally negligent manslaughter, and was amended again last year to allow judges to consider prior crimes and whether a weapon was involved or was violated a protection order by setting bail. .
Republicans and moderate Democrats, including Mayor Adams, have blamed cashless bail for increases in violent crime and called for judges to be given more discretion despite little evidence linking them.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) have expressed reservations about amending the law again.
Hochul’s fellow Democrats hold large majorities in both chambers, which could serve as a hurdle for the governor’s criminal justice platform.
At a rally earlier in the day, some Democratic lawmakers made clear they will not back a budget that includes Hochul’s bail changes.
“The Assembly majority strongly rejected further attempts to water down bail reform in our single-house budget proposal released last week,” said Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn). “Why try to fix something that study after study shows works? People are coming back to court. And bail reform has not contributed to an increase in crime.”
Hochul noted that the data from the Division of Criminal Justice Services mirrors what other studies have shown: Since the implementation of the reforms, recidivism has decreased for people with low-level offenses.
However, new arrests of people accused of violent crimes have increased, according to the data.
“We have to understand that there are two different categories of criminals,” the governor said. “That’s what we’re talking about in our bond changes.”
Proponents argue that studies and most data collected on re-arrest rates do not support Hochul’s proposal. FWD.es highlighted a study published by the Data Collaborative for Justice on Wednesday that showed that the reforms “significantly reduced recidivism” and not only maintained but “increased” public safety.
“We urge elected leaders to follow the data… that shows that rolling back this successful policy will not make New York safer,” said FWD.us New York State Director Alana Sivin. “New York’s elected leaders must reject changes to this successful policy and prioritize investments in evidence-based solutions that promote public safety.”