New York bail reform remains controversial

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York State’s bail reform laws were passed in 2019, and have remained controversial ever since. Some are suggesting judges should be afforded more discretion when deciding who gets jail time before trial.

Others fear that could open the door to discrimination.

“We don’t need to be thinking about dangerousness at this time,” said Rosemary Rivera, Co-Executive Director of Citizen Action of NY. “We need to be thinking about, what is a fair and just system?”

However, former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman thinks it’s worth considering.

“Judicial discretion is a good thing, not a bad thing, if judges exercise it wisely,” Lippman said, “which I think overwhelmingly they do.”

Citizen Action of New York responded after Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said there is data and information available to address concerns from community and law enforcement about the impact bail reform has had so far. Rivera fears any additional rollbacks to bail reform will perpetuate the systemic issues the laws sought to address in the first place.

“We need to create solutions to the rise in gun violence, and ensure that all of our communities are safe, while at the same time deal with that mass incarceration system,” Rivera told NEWS10.

Bail reform went into effect in the first half of 2020, and has since been criticized by leaders in law enforcement, including NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who blamed a spike in gun violence in NYC on bail reform.

But Lippman pointed out that similar rises in crime have been reported in other U.S. cities that do not operate under bail reform laws.

“I think we ought to be constantly looking at the data. I’m not in agreement with those who say because of bail reform law, everyone goes out on the street and that causes all kinds of violence. The stats really don’t show that,” Lippman explained.

Governor Kathy Hochul said Monday she will work with the legislature to see if parts of the bail reform law should be amended.

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