Read the full piece in New York Focus
When Governor Kathy Hochul released her executive budget on Wednesday, observers expected to see yet another round of rollbacks to New York’s bail reform law. Since its passage in 2019, the landmark legislation had come under fire from tough-on-crime politicians and pundits in New York and nationwide. Watchers expected Hochul, still reeling from a too-close challenge from far-right Lee Zeldin, to unveil a map leading back toward the pre-bail reform status quo. But she didn’t.
Instead, Hochul reached beyond the 2019 law, putting Albany on track to reverse a foundational tenet of New York’s criminal procedures.
Even before the 2019 bail reform law — which eliminated cash bail and mandated release for most misdemeanors and “nonviolent” felonies — New York required that judges setting bail consider only a person’s likelihood of returning to court. For bail-eligible cases, Hochul’s proposal would strip those considerations from the law entirely, instead offering judges near limitless discretion.
“It’s complete arbitrariness,” said Arielle Reid, supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s decarceration project.
“It’s not just a departure from the bail reform statute,” said Krystal Rodriguez, policy director of the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay College. “It’s a departure from what has been New York state law for decades.”