State Judges Need 8-Page Courtroom 'Cheat Sheet' to Navigate Bail Reform Law: Report
Judges in New York State have found themselves confronted by a 49-page reference manual, a two-part training and an eight-page long “cheat sheet” — just to decide whether they can set bail.
According to a Friday report from the New York Post, the Empire State’s bail reform law has created a system so convoluted that judges were required to take two training sessions lasting nearly four hours each on the new regulations.
The adjustments to New York’s 2019 bail reform law allegedly provide jurists “broad discretion” to set bail for dangerous offenders according to Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul.
However, as a Manhattan Institute study by Jim Quinn showed in July, “New York City crime data show that index crimes went up 20% in the first two and a half months after the bail reform took effect, increasing by double digits in the crimes for which judges could no longer set bail: burglary +26%; car theft +68%; grand larceny +16%; and petit larceny +19%.”
New York Mayor and Hochul’s fellow Democrat Eric Adams has even criticized the changes as doing far too little to ensure the safety of New Yorkers.
“Our criminal justice system is insane. It is dangerous. It is harmful. And it is destroying the fabric of our city,” Adams said in an Aug. 3 statement.
Join me and @NYPDPC Sewell at 1 Police Plaza for an announcement. https://t.co/2P8wBhyJ0d
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) August 3, 2022
Adams and NYPD officials pointed to recidivism rates that have “skyrocketed.” He referred to offenders “taking advantage” of the current system. He flatly rejected studies that claimed there was no change in violent felony arrests following the reforms, saying that they were in one word: “Wrong. You are wrong.”
He explained, “In 2022, 25 percent of the 1,494 people arrested for burglary, committed another felony within 60 days. In 2017, however, just 7.7 went on to commit another crime.”
As Quinn observed in his study, “Ironically, given the stated aims of bail reform advocates, the overwhelming majority of the victims of crime in NYC are black and Hispanic, and the recent crime wave is having a disproportionate effect on their neighborhoods.” He noted that blacks and Hispanics, while making up 48 percent of the New York City population, made up almost 91 percent of the murder victims in 2021.
The Post reported that a source familiar with the 49-page manual said, “It tells you that, at best, [bail reform was] not very well thought through, and at worst, it’s purposefully meant to be a pretzel instead of being very clear and straightforward.”
The state’s Office of Court Administration also provides judges with a seven-page long memorandum that renders the changes visually into charts that list the different offenses that are still eligible for cash bail, which no longer includes most misdemeanors and “non-violent” felonies.
Because the changes to the law are so complicated, these charts had to be expanded upon with 25 footnotes, the Post reported. These footnotes allegedly break down situations where offenders are to be released in spite of being charged with “qualifying offenses,” in other words: violent felonies.
Unlike in every other state and the federal courts, according to the Post, New York judges aren’t permitted to consider the risk to the public incurred by releasing these defendants. They can only use bail to ensure suspects make their court dates as Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell noted.
Gov. Hochul, in response to criticism from Adams among others, argued that judges should be “using the broad discretion they have.”
Albany District Attorney David Soares who took part in the training seminars according to the Post said, “This idea that judges have discretion and are exercising discretion is a categorical lie.”
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