New York Dems Want To Roll Back Bail Reforms. Not So Fast, Says NYC Comptroller.

No secret the United States is home to the highest level of imprisonment in the world. It is not hard to see why this number is so high. There are many reasons, but opinions vary on how best to address it. This has been especially true as the violent crime rate has risen throughout the country. A new report from New York City’s budget monitor suggests that bail leniency may be having an effect despite calls to cities and states to repeal reforms on cash bail.

New York Democrats passed a bill in 2019 that abolished cash bail and pretrial custody for all non-violent felonies, and almost all misdemeanors. If a judge still requires money to bail the defendant must be able to afford it. Reforms were made to reduce the amount of people who are locked up simply because they cannot pay.

Opponents reported that the law was already leading people to commit more serious crimes immediately following its implementation on January 1, 2020. The legislature increased the list of crimes for which defendants could have to post bail in April 2020. The rise in violent crime in New York City was attributed to the summer of 2015. Dermot Shea, NYPD police commissioner, blamed the bail reform bill and COVID-19 for the spike in crime. Now the Democratic governor. Kathy Hochul, a Democratic Governor, is pushing privately to expand bail eligibility for crimes.

In a new report, Brad Lander, New York City Comptroller, stated that the bail reforms worked and the state should prioritise “strengthening”. [their] implementation.”

Data between 2019 and 2021 were examined in the report. The report found that the overall number of persons subject to bail fell significantly, due in part to both bail reforms, and suspensions of hearings as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic. Instead of leading to an increase in offenders getting out of jail and reoffending, the number of bail holders who were rearrested prior to trial, which was around five percent, “remained almost identical” to that of the previous law.

However, the report revealed that, despite the sharp decline in people being granted bail, bail money totals actually increased between 2019 and 2021. Increased significantly. Even though the law requires that a defendant consider his ability to pay, the average bail amount during that period increased by two-thirds. This meant that only half the defendants who had bail set never got their release. “Even among those who did, most remain in prison for at least some time.”

Final conclusions of the report are that any further rollbacks to 2019’s bail reforms will primarily result in more money being extracted from vulnerable communities, and an increase in the number of City prisoners awaiting trial. They are not shown to reduce crime.

Cash bail can be used to guarantee that defendants return to court in time for their trial. However, in practice it can keep poor defendants locked up in jail, while the wealthy and well-off can afford to escape, regardless how serious the crime. If a defendant is likely to reoffend, there are still other options that can be used by a court to make sure he returns. Data is abundant: New York City’s bail reforms work as intended. It would be foolish to reduce them.