Bolts New York Focus

How New York State Just Rolled Back Criminal Justice Reforms

The final budget made changes to bail law, discovery law, pre-arraignment detention, involuntary commitment, and more.

Read the full piece in New York Focus and Bolts

On Saturday morning, after a week of delay, past-deadline negotiations, and last-minute bill-writing, the state legislature passed the final bill making up the New York state budget. Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, signed the budget package into law hours later.

This year, criminal justice issues were at the center of negotiations. In mid-March, nearly two months after releasing her original budget proposal and about two weeks before the budget deadline, Hochul sent a memo to the state legislature, which is also controlled by Democrats, outlining largely non-fiscal criminal justice provisions that she wanted to include in the budget. The 10-point “public safety package” was multi-faceted, but mostly geared toward expanding incarceration by rolling back recent reforms to the criminal-legal system and imposing harsher penalties for gun crimes. The controversy surrounding what critics deemed an 11th-hour power move is a major reason the budget wasn’t passed until a week after the April 1 deadline.

The final budget included rollbacks of New York’s landmark 2019 bail reforms, changes to its discovery laws, and expansions of pre-arraignment detention and involuntary inpatient mental health treatment — changes that have been demanded for years by proponents of tough-on-crime policies and have met with resounding condemnation from reform advocates. 

“There will be more deaths in jails and more wrongful convictions as a result,” Roger Clark, an advocate with VOCAL-NY’s Civil Rights Union, said in a statement. 

Still, the changes were far less sweeping than Hochul’s public safety package, and reform critics like Mayor Eric Adams offered only tepid support. Adams signaled he will continue pushing for further rollbacks in the future. “This is only halftime,” he said.

In response to Hochul’s public safety package, the state Senate came up with a set of proposed compromises — first published by New York Focus — which the legislature workshopped and used to negotiate in the days leading up to the budget deadline. The Senate memo excluded about half of Hochul’s proposals and offered scaled-down versions of the others.

What ended up in the final budget legislation is mostly an amalgamation of the two proposals. It includes many of Hochul’s public safety provisions — as well as some unwieldy workaround items, the effects of which may not become clear for months, and highly specific provisions that seem to aim to crack down on gun crime but will affect very few cases. Other proposals reform groups had pushed for, like a measure to seal conviction records, were not included.

Here is what made it in.


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