New York, NY — The New York City Council Progressive Caucus reaffirms its support of recently enacted pre-trial reforms that went into effect on January 1, 2020.
Last year, New York State passed bail and pretrial reforms aimed at reducing pretrial detention and ending the rampant injustices of money bail. These reforms as they stand are necessary to sufficiently decarcerate Rikers to ensure its closure, as the Council voted to do so by 2026. We are in support of these reforms that New York lawmakers tirelessly worked to finalize with directly impacted and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers. These laws were designed to create a fairer system by ensuring that innocent people are no longer deprived of their freedom simply due to the size of their bank account and the color of their skin. New York City has proven that ending mass incarceration and maintaining public safety can go hand in hand, evidenced by the City’s historically low jail population and crime rate.
Despite misinformation and concerns about these bail laws being enacted ‘too quickly,’ advocates and State electeds have been considering and pushing these reforms for a considerable amount of time. The Caucus urges state electeds to stay the course instead of entertaining proposals that rollback on the historic progress made in 2019 by replacing cash bail with increased judicial discretion, remand, electronic monitoring, and discrimination based on past criminal record. The vast majority of pretrial defendants appear for their scheduled court appearances, which is what bail and pretrial detention supposedly exists to address. Those wavering would be wise to remember Kalief Browder’s tragic death as one example of the trauma individuals can endure because of pre-trial detention due to discriminatory bail and pretrial statutes.
Instead of rolling back reforms, the State and City should be finding more ways to invest in housing, mental health facilities, schools, pretrial services, and other resources that address the societal failures that push people into the criminal justice system. We cannot expect tepid reforms to truly reduce pretrial detention; the State’s month-old bail laws have a better chance of achieving the City’s ambitious goal of closing Rikers forever. We ask our colleagues at the State to keep the current bail reform laws intact and instead join with us, currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, and low income people of color most affected by the criminal justice system to support programs that lift up and invest in our communities.