Governor Cuomo, Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie,
January 1st was a historic day that ushered in pretrial reforms that will make New York fairer and more just. These reforms are a huge step forward towards eliminating the race- and wealth-based detention that has plagued New York for decades. The new laws will dramatically expand pretrial liberty and reduce jail populations and taxpayer spending on jails across the state.
These reforms are the result of years of work by directly impacted people, advocates, faith leaders, and lawmakers to address the rampant injustices of New York’s pretrial system. Prior to these reforms, tens of thousands of people across the state languished in jail each year simply because they were too poor to afford bail and forced to accept plea deals without ever seeing the evidence in their cases. People routinely lost their homes, jobs, and custody of their children because of the state’s broken and racist pretrial laws. The laws passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor will go a long way towards righting these wrongs.
Less than a week after these historic reforms were implemented, some regressive district attorneys and legislators are calling to reverse your great work and return to a pretrial system that will continue to prey on Black, Brown, and low-income communities. By referring to the new bail reforms as a “get-out-of-jail-free card,” these fear-mongers are trying to expand a two-tiered system of justice in which the wealthy pay bail and go home and poor people languish in jail.
Others are clamoring for the introduction of dangerousness to our bail statute, an approach that would exacerbate racial disparities and that New York has rightfully rejected for half a century. This small but vocal group is stoking fear by spreading misinformation about a small number of cases to the media rather than celebrating the fact that thousands of people are reuniting with their families, returning to work, and making their communities stronger.
Pretrial reform is about fighting for a fairer, more just New York. Make no mistake – retreating from bail reform less than a week after it goes into effect because of predictable fearmongering will be a retreat from New York’s position as a leader in criminal justice reform and will embolden opponents who prefer the status quo. Each of you fought hard to secure these important reforms, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers are and will continue benefiting from them. We are urging you to stand firm and stop any attempts to roll back New York’s historic pretrial reforms.
Action Together Rochester
Alliance for Quality Education
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Brooklyn Community Bail Fund
Brooklyn Defender Services
Broome Tioga Green Party
Center For Community Alternatives
Citizen Action New York
Civil Rights Corps
College & Community Fellowship
Color Of Change
Correctional Association of New York
Drug Policy Alliance
Empire State Indivisible
End New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN)
Enough Is Enough
Federal Defenders of New York
First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn
Harm Reduction Coalition
Human Rights Watch
Immigrant Defense Project
John Brown Lives!
Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS
Legal Aid Society
Long Island Progressive Coalition
Make the Road New York
New Hour for Women & Children LI
New York Civil Liberties Union
New York Communities for Change
New York County Defender Services
New York State Defenders Association, Inc.
New York Working Families
Returning Citizens Society
Rikers Debate Project
Rise Up Kingston
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ NYC)
Southern Tier AIDS Program
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
The Bronx Defenders
The Bronx Freedom Fund
The Osborne Association
Ulster People for Justice & Democracy
Westchester Children's Association
Westchester Coalition for Police Reform
Westchester for Change
Westchester MLK Institute for Nonviolence