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Hon. Andrea Stewart-Cousins
President and Majority Leader of the New York State Senate
State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12247

Hon. Carl E. Heastie
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12248

Dear Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie:

We urge you to reject Governor Hochul’s proposal to weaken New York State’s bail laws and instead call on you to make evidence-backed investments in real community safety. All available data demonstrates the success of bail reform in New York State – reducing pre-trial jailing and increasing court appearance rates without impacting re-arrest rates. Still, extreme racial disparities persist for people held in New York’s jails. The data is clear: Further rollbacks to the bail laws will not increase public safety, but will send more Black, brown and working class New Yorkers to jail to await their trial, increasing wrongful convictions, further entrenching poverty and inequity, and destabilizing individuals and communities – ultimately making New York less safe.

Everyone has a right to be safe and lawmakers need to take bold action to prevent and respond to violence. But if we blame the wrong cause, we end up with the wrong solution. The politicized focus on bail reform distracts from what is truly needed. The safest communities have the best schools, the highest-paying jobs, the most stable housing, the greatest access to health care, including mental health care and drug treatment, and more. In the interest of community safety and equity, lawmakers must heed demands for deep investments and policy changes to fill these massive gaps.

The Governor’s proposal is a solution in search of a problem. In her State of the State, the Governor acknowledged that the changes to the bail laws are unrelated to crime rates. Instead, the Governor has justified the proposed changes in the law as an attempt to provide clarity and remove confusion for judges. Yet her proposal would do the opposite, eliminating wholesale the longstanding requirement that judges set “the least restrictive” condition that “will reasonably assure [a person’s] return to court” when making a pretrial release determination, without offering any replacement. Instead, judges would be left with a list of factors to consider and no standard whatsoever to guide their decision-making. Individual judges would be left to rely on their own biases and make up the law as they go. Moreover, a representative from the Office of Court Administration testified judges are not confused by the current standard, which has been in place for decades.

We agree with you, Speaker Heastie: “Access to housing, mental health crises, access to meaningful employment, and addiction are drivers of poverty & crime – that’s where our focus should be. Not using buzz words to score political points and offer nothing more than reactive solutions.” We also agree with you, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins: "Everyone understands the importance of increasing public safety, but succumbing to national Republican fear mongering around bail reform, misses the opportunity to adopt real solutions. Facts matter. Study after study ― as covered by Newsday, the Times Union and the NY Times ― have shown that bail reform has had no effect on the crime rate. And while crime remains at historically low levels, the proliferation of guns on our streets is historically high. We need truth ― not fear ― to guide our responses to this crisis."

The Legislature should reject any further weakening of bail reform, and instead focus on real solutions to community safety.



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