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Hochul wants to give more discretion to judges, but progressives believe policy will lead to unjust incarceration

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  • Staff Report 

Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed changes to the state’s bail laws are being criticized by progressives and public defenders, who believe the tweaks could lead to unjust incarceration and confusion for judges.

It comes days after Hochul announced a more detailed breakdown of what she hopes becomes law as part of the state’s budget.


They argue that the governor’s proposal would allow judges to use discretion in setting bail for “serious” offenses, leading to more people being incarcerated unnecessarily.

The administration, however, maintains that the proposal is aimed at improving public safety and preventing the release of defendants who continue committing crimes.

The proposal would remove the “least restrictive means to ensure return to court” standard from qualifying offenses, but its impact remains unclear, with estimates ranging from a possible 10% increase in the rate of judges setting bail to a possible change in more than 10,000 cases statewide annually.

Prosecutors and Republican state officials view the proposal as a good start, but lawmakers must now weigh whether to ease a judge’s ability to set bail. Public defenders argue the proposal is unworkable, and the administration points to a list of 10 factors that judges are to consider in “bail-eligible” cases.