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State leaders warn against tying rising crime to NYC bail laws | State News

ALBANY — Legislative leaders want other policymakers to stop inappropriately linking all public safety issues to state bail laws and come up with other criminal justice solutions, they said Tuesday, hours after court officials said New York judges wanted greater discretion in deciding whether to release an offender.

Most judges who sit on criminal cases in the state’s unified court system would argue for more discretion in deciding whether to detain or release an charged offender, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks said.

“Many judges, if not most of our judges who sit on criminal cases, would like more discretion in making decisions about bail and people charged with crimes,” Marks told lawmakers Tuesday during the hearing. Legislative Assembly Budget Hearing on Public Protection. “And I don’t speak for 100% of our judges, but I think it’s fair to say that…we would like to have more discretion in these kinds of decisions and feel that they could make fair and effective decisions on a case-by-case if they had more discretion.

The Democratic-led Legislature approved sweeping changes to New York’s bail laws in 2019, limiting pretrial detention for most nonviolent crimes to make the system fairer. The revisions were changed in 2020 to make more serious offenses eligible for bail, such as criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter.

Legislative leaders have cast doubt on whether they will change bail laws this session, but said Tuesday they were ready for hours of discussions this session on public safety proposals to change bail laws. discovery, judicial discretion or bail law.

The judges’ demand for greater discretion confounded Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, D-Bronx.

“We’re being asked to give judges less discretion on discovery, but more discretion on bail,” he told reporters at the state Capitol on Tuesday. “So I’m a bit confused if we believe judges have discretion on one side, but you want to reduce it on the other.”

The bail reform discussion evolved Tuesday with the start of 13 virtual joint budget hearings as lawmakers prepare to negotiate the state budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Marks told Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, that he was unaware that judges were ignoring bail changes.

“I have to take issue with the fact that judges willfully flout the law,” Marks said. “Judges don’t have a crystal ball. It is impossible to predict with certainty what the consequences of releasing someone in the community or not releasing someone in the community would be.

All state judges received bail law training in 2019, and virtually in 2020 when the law was struck down.

Recently released data on 2021 indictments reveals that approximately 2% of those released on bail were rearrested for a violent crime.

Republicans, who are demanding the full repeal of bail changes, have argued that the 2% rate is not a success, saying the more than 2,000 victims and New York families affected are anything but a mark of victory.

GOP leaders continue to link state bail laws to rising violent crime — a trend seen in cities across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Repeat offenders don’t just fall under cashless bail laws, Marks said, noting that several are released on their own recognizance, on non-monetary terms or on bail before being re-arrested.

About 30%, or 906 of the 2,986 people who posted bail in New York City, were rearrested in 2020.

In the rest of the state, about 32%, or 619 of 1,963 people who posted bail, were re-arrested, Division of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Rossana Rosado said, citing data from 2020 statewide indictment.

“People who posted bail were re-arrested at a higher rate than those who were re-arrested on their own recognizance,” Rosado said. “We should dig deeper into these cases to determine if they were violent or non-violent recidivism.”

The agency did not keep indictment statistics for violent and non-violent recidivism before the bail laws came into effect to make a proper comparison.

Heastie doubts the rate of repeat offenders before 2019 is much different.

“I can’t imagine that 100% of people before bail reform didn’t commit other crimes,” he said. “Because the judges let people out. Some people were released on bail and still committed crimes.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea A. Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, acknowledged the judges’ desire for discretion, but said their decision-making created the historic system that is more likely to hold back blacks and Latinos before trial for the same offense compared to white offenders.

Young black defendants are 50% more likely than white defendants to be detained or pay cash bail for the same criminal offense, Stewart-Cousins ​​said.

“I know judges want discretion,” she said. “…We cannot argue that there has not been judicial discretion and that this discretion has led, in some cases, nationally and not just here, to a disparity between who is detained and who is not.”

“I obviously don’t want to paint everyone with the same brush, there are some amazing judges,” she added, “but there has been, consistently, a result when left to the sole discretion. , which somehow over-incarcerates black and brown and poor defendants.

Leaders are open to more conversations about the justice system as a whole and legislative remedies to establish appropriate consequences for criminals and fairer justice practices, Stewart-Cousins ​​said.

The bail reform discussion evolved as Tuesday’s hearing continued, a day after New York City Mayor Eric L. Adams asked state lawmakers to Amend the Bail Act to allow greater judicial discretion with respect to offenders who pose a continuing danger to the community.

Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul expressed support for discussing changing the bail system with legislative leaders, but declined to publicly elaborate on her position on what the controversial law should become. The governor did not include changes to the law in his executive budget proposal.

“If Governor Hochul wanted to make changes to bail reform, he would be made,” Republican Party state committee chairman Nick Langworthy said in a statement Monday. “She likes to talk a good game about the importance of safety, but her actions are the exact opposite, keeping New Yorkers trapped in this crisis.”

Heastie did not provide details of his discussions with Hochul about bail reform. He urged lawmakers to stop using bail reform to spread misinformation in their political campaigns.

“Part of my frustration is that whatever bad happens, ‘it has to be bail reform’s fault,'” Heastie said. “I think it’s unfortunate to tie the increase in gun violence solely to bail. If so, why do we have gun problems across the country? »

“(The United States) accounts for two-thirds of firearms owned by civilians worldwide. Nobody ever wants to talk about it,” he added.

The declining mental health of all New Yorkers and Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting poverty likely influenced rising crime rates, the speaker said.

Other Republican leaders have also pointed to rising violent crime rates in New York cities, linking the violence to Democratic-backed bail law changes.

“Although their ‘reforms’ may have been well-intentioned, they used a hatchet when they needed a scalpel and subsequently overthrew the criminal justice system,” Assembly Minority Leader said , William A. Barclay, R-Pulaski. “The fact remains that the dangerous and misguided policies of Democrats continue to erode public safety, especially in underserved communities.”

Barclay again called for an overhaul of the state’s bail policies.

“It is incumbent on the legislature and the governor to protect every New Yorker,” he said. “We cannot afford to sit idly by with these current policies in place; people’s lives are at stake.

Heastie and Stewart-Cousins ​​on Tuesday attacked Republicans for blaming an increase in gun violence on bail reform.

“It’s unfortunate that people found it as an easy way to demonize a side and not do a lot of work,” Stewart-Cousins ​​said. “It’s important to make sure the justice system works for everyone.

“Crime is a national problem,” she added. “We cannot incarcerate ourselves because of these problems. … I think we can be better than that.

Tribune News Service contributed to this story.

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