Statement on New York State Bail Reform Negotiations

Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society, released the following statement today responding to reports that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Legislature leaders have abandoned efforts to reform the State’s broken bail statute as part of this year’s budget:

“As public defenders in New York City, bearing witness to the ever-present humanitarian crisis that is Rikers Island, we see first-hand the devastation our system of money bail has brought to our clients, their families, and their communities.

While legislators in Albany play politics, here is what we know:

  • Our bail system pushes 47,000 people through Rikers Island every year because they cannot pay money bail.
  • In upstate New York, more than 21,000 people spent at least one night in jail because they couldn’t afford bail at $500 or less between 2010-2014.
  • People who have money bail set are 34% more likely to be convicted of a crime, independent of all other factors.
  • Our bail system disproportionately harms people of color; 55% of people at Rikers are African American and 34% are Latino.
  • New York voters widely support ending pretrial jail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Just over seven in ten voters (71% support/24% oppose) support this proposal to limit pre-trial detention, including nearly half (47%) who support it strongly.

So today, in every courtroom in New York City, in the halls of Albany, in the streets of this great city, we continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our clients and their communities to demand that Governor Cuomo and the Legislature immediately resume negotiations and pass comprehensive bail reform in the state’s budget.

By kicking bail reform out of the budget negotiations Albany is ignoring the voices of people of color, people experiencing poverty, and its larger constituency. Governor Cuomo and Legislature are more beholden to the interests of the District Attorney’s Association and the for-profit bail bonds industry than they are to the presumption of innocence and progressive values.

Given the turmoil in Washington, D.C., 2018 should be the year that Albany decided to place people before politics. We urge Governor Cuomo to bring all parties back to the table to pass real and uncompromised bail reform in this year’s budget. It is not too late.”