By former cop and New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ account, his city is teeming with career criminals who are reoffending in record numbers, after nation-leading reforms eliminated cash bail for most crimes in the state.
Fellow Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders say few defendants freed pending trial go on to reoffend, while scores more are spared the city’s festering jails, thanks to new laws heralded by progressives and accepted by some moderates. The dispute has become irreconcilable, a near-daily point of disagreement between two powerful Democrats. The opposing sides are relying on fundamentally different data, Politico reports.
It's part of a larger battle over how to balance equity amid rising crime, an issue that has divided the party and set back the reform movement launched by the death of George Floyd.
New York’s bail laws were highlighted by an incident involving Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor, who was publicly attacked by a man who was swiftly released from custody.
As the nation looks to New York as the proving ground for criminal justice reforms, it sees a moderate Democrat at war with his own party.
“Our criminal justice system is insane. It is dangerous. It’s harmful. And it’s destroying the fabric of our city,” Adams said as he continued to push Hochul and lawmakers to rescind their two-year-old reforms. “As a result of this insane, broken system, our recidivism rates have skyrocketed.” The 2019 state law prohibited cash bail for all but the most serious misdemeanors and felonies. State judges cannot hold defendants based on their perceived dangerousness, and are required to use the least restrictive means of ensuring defendants return to court.
State lawmakers rolled back portions of the law in 2020 just months after enactment, and again this year. They’ve rejected Adams’ demands for a special session in Albany to pass even stricter pretrial detention.
“We never said that the cause of crime in the state is because of bail reform,” says Hochul. “That is too simplistic. That is a political slogan.” Adams says the share of people arrested for burglary who went on to be arrested for another felony within 60 days rose from 7.7 percent in 2017 to 25.1 percent in 2022. Felony rearrests for defendants accused of grand larceny similarly rose for that period, from 6.5 percent to 16.8 percent — or 310 rearrests this year.
The rearrest rate for accused car thieves increased from 10 percent to 20.3 percent, to 125 this year. For petit larceny — crimes like shoplifting — it rose from 8.1 percent to 21.2 percent compared to five years ago Critics say Adam’s NYPD data are unreliable, however, because they reflect only arrests, not charges pursued in court. Most arrests are ultimately dismissed, and police tend to “inflate” arrest rates and charges, contends Amanda Jack of the Legal Aid Society.
According to figures published by the New York State Unified Court System, people released without bail reoffend at similar rates to those who are assigned bail and pay it, suggesting bail is not a deterrent.
On average, the rate is a little under 20 percent over the last two years. Since 2020, an average of 9.6 percent of people arraigned for a crime statewide were rearrested and arraigned on a misdemeanor. Seven percent went on to be charged with a subsequent nonviolent felony, and 2.8 percent were rearrested and arraigned on a violent felony,.
In New York City, the stats were similar: On average over the last two years, 19.2 percent were arrested again — 8 percent for a misdemeanor, 7.8 percent for a non-violent felony and 3.4 percent for a violent felony. Rearrests are also dropping — 23 percent of defendants arrested statewide in 2020 were rearrested on another charge. Last year, that figure dropped to 19.5 percent.