NEW YORK (PIX11) — Mayor Eric Adams, under pressure to address violent crime, wants to see major changes in the state’s bail reform laws, he told PIX11 News.
“I believe judges should be able to have the discretion of dangerousness, to do an analysis if someone has an immediate threat to the city, they should make a determination if they should be released or not,” the mayor said.
Jullian Harris-Calvin, director of the Greater Justice New York program at the Vera Institute of Justice, said the lack of a dangerous calculation in New York’s bail reform law has little to do with the state’s rising crime. She pointed to New Jersey as evidence.
“We see under New Jersey’s system in 2019, there were 14 and half percent of people were rearrested on a felony offense, and we have those similar numbers in New York even though we don’t have a dangerousness calculation,” Harris-Calvin said.
The purpose of the reform law in general was to reduce the number of people jailed while awaiting trial, simply because they could not afford to pay bail. Supporters of the bail reform said it disproportionately effected Black and brown communities.
But the perception among some district attorneys, law enforcement and public officials is that the law has increased levels of crime. Many would like it revised and ome, especially Republicans in Albany, would like to see it repealed altogether.
But Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin wants people to remember how we got here.
“Kalief Browder was the example that many people focused on. He was a young man who may or may not have stolen a backpack, was given bail, couldn’t afford bail and ended up spending three years at Rikers Island, came out and committed suicide,” Benjamin said.
Under New York’s reform law, for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, judges are required to release people with the least restrictions necessary to reasonably assure the person will come back to court. For these crimes, cash bail is prohibited.
But Benjamin said in all other cases, judges have discretion to release people with or without pretrial conditions: including electronic monitoring, going to drug treatment programs, and setting bail. In certain felony cases, judges can remand people into custody.
“It’s important to note that when it comes to the lion’s share of felonies, period, but particularly the ones that are violent, those are primarily bail eligible offenses,” Benjamin said.
Suffolk County Sherriff Errol Toulon Jr. is one of those who believe the state’s bail reform law has been a failure thus far with one big shortfall.
“Our legislators did not take into account that judicial discretion is extremely needed when a case goes before a judge,” said Sherriff Toulon. “And more importantly, if you’re going to release individuals from their custody and give them an ROR [release on recognizance], where are those services in the community that are going to assist them, so they do not reoffend?
Gov. Kathy Hochul has dedicated $10 million of her proposed $216 billion budget toward pretrial services, which people on both sides of the aisle have said is not enough.