Progressive organizations in New York are calling on top Democrats in the state Legislature to oppose Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to alter the state’s bail laws. Hochul has called for an end to the “least restrictive” standard when cash bail is being considered by judges for serious criminal charges, a provision contained in her $227 billion budget.
In a letter signed by 100 advocacy groups, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie are being asked to oppose the change. Those signing onto the letter include Citizen Action, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Aid Society, and the Center for Community Alternatives.
“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,” the groups wrote in the letter.
The debate over the bail measure stems from a 2019 change that ended cash bail for many criminal charges in New York. Opponents have argued that the measure has made the state less safe, while proponents contend it is necessary to address inequities in the criminal justice system that have led to low-income defendants languishing in local jails.
Heastie and Stewart-Cousins have not embraced Hochul’s proposed bail law changes and instead have called for measures meant to reduce crime by addressing housing and mental health.
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