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Bail Reform An Issue In NY Budget Negotiations At Deadline

With a state budget due, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state's Democratic-supermajority legislature were locked in debate over further changes to the bail laws, despite overwhelming public support for giving judges more discretion on bail. The New York Constitution gives the governor's office the upper hand in budget negotiations, the venue for Hochul's insistence on rolling back recent bail reforms. The legislature has shown little appetite for changing bail laws that it already amended on several occasions. The constitutional deadline for a budget deal was Friday at midnight. "I would question whether or not there's a need to do anything with bail reform," says Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. The Siena College Research Institute found 72% support among registered voters for giving judges more discretion to set bail for serious crimes.

Hochul's proposal in the budget would eliminate the requirement that judges use the least-restrictive means to ensure a defendant's reappearance in court for bail-eligible offenses. Instead, a judge would consider a host of factors, including the defendant's background and the nature of the charges, but would not be bound by the least-restrictive method of ensuring their reappearance at trial. Last year's state budget included further leeway for judges to look at the seriousness of crimes, and whether those crimes were gun-related, in relation to setting bail. Research has not supported the allegations of bail reform's critics. Researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice looked at re-arrest rates for newly-bail-ineligible crimes, comparing them to similar pre-reform cases where bail had been set. The report found that the two-year re-arrest rate under the reforms, 44%, was lower than the 50% re-arrest rate for similar cases pre-reform. This would indicate that New York's bail reforms had the effect of lowering recidivism. The re-arrest rate for new felony charges was also lower compared to the status quo pre-reform.


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