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Researcher says removing ‘least restrictive’ standard in NY’s bail law wouldn’t have impact on public safety

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

Governor Hochul’s proposal to reform New York’s bail laws has come under criticism from Michael Rempel, the director of the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay College.

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The governor cited a recent study by John Jay College for Criminal Justice to support her push to end the “least restrictive” standard for serious charges and repeat offenders. The study found an uptick in recidivism for violent felonies and even bigger increases for defendants with serious crimes. However, Rempel argues that the data in his study does not support Hochul’s push to end the “least restrictive” means standard for serious charges. He said that in cases remaining eligible for bail, there was no difference in recidivism, indicating that Hochul’s amendment proposal to detain more people eligible for bail would likely make no difference in recidivism or public safety.

Tina Luongo, the chief attorney of the criminal defense practice at Legal Aid, supports Rempel’s argument and believes that Hochul needs to re-read the reports and talk to people like Michael Rempel. Luongo believes that it is unconstitutional to do away with the “least restrictive means” and that a judge should be doing an individualized assessment about what it will take to have somebody return to court.

However, Luongo supports Hochul’s other criminal justice investments, including $337 million to reduce gun violence, cracking down on ghost guns, reducing gang violence, and bolstering support for local law enforcement and new community stabilization units. State Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay agrees with the John Jay report and believes that data matters. Recidivism in low-level crimes is lower, but re-arrests for felonies or violent felonies increased since bail reform passed.

Barclay argues that the Legislature should not have undermined the discretion of judges or forced duly-elected prosecutors to adhere to a “least restrictive” standard. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that data does not replace the experiences and observations of prosecutors, law-enforcement professionals, crime victims, and constituents that the Legislature constantly hears from.