Effective Jan. 1, a New York law eliminating cash bail for most nonviolent crimes will go into effect. While criminal justice reformers praise the move, some police chiefs, district attorneys and lawmakers oppose the change.
The law is part of a group of changes designed to reform the criminal justice system, passed by the state legislature in the spring and signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Criminal justice reform advocates say it’s “an essential step toward a fairer court system,” reports NBC News.
Specifically, the law will eliminate cash bail requirements and pretrial detention for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Instead, those accused will receive appearance tickets.
“We believe we have a system where one is innocent until proven guilty, but in reality it was that people were guilty until proven rich,” said Democratic state Sen. Michael Gianaris.
However, critics say the law threatens public safety and essentially rewards bad behavior.
Advocates of the New York law point to neighboring New Jersey as an example of how new ideas can be implemented successfully, providing much-needed reform to the pretrial process.
Early numbers from New Jersey, which in 2017 implemented an algorithm to determine if defendants should be held in jail before trial, showed that “people who aren’t dangerous are not being jailed solely because they can’t afford bail, and dangerous people aren’t being released even though they can afford to pay,” NBC News wrote in its special report, “Post Bail.”
A report released this summer by policy research organization the Vera Institute of Justice predicted that New York’s new law will reduce the state’s pretrial population by 40 percent or more, even more than the reduction New Jersey experienced.
“These reforms will make the New York state criminal justice system a fairer, safer and more just system to go through—a system that doesn’t give added benefits to folks who can afford all the luxuries,” said Khalil Cumberbatch, chief strategist of the criminal justice advocacy coalition New Yorkers United for Justice. “All we’re doing is leveling the playing field.”
Perhaps with this new law, all New Yorkers will experience more fairness and equity during the pretrial process. Perhaps there will be more justice for all—not just for those who have the financial means to post bail.