Hochul’s Executive Budget Means Arbitrary, Capricious Bail Decisions

The Vera Institute of Justice Calls on New York Legislature to Reject Proposed Budget, Embrace Historic Bail Reforms and Invest in Community Safety

February 2, 2023

Contact: Trip Eggert | teggert@vera.org | (212) 376-3157, ext. 1033

In response to Governor Hochul’s proposed executive budget, Jullian Harris-Calvin, director of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Greater Justice New York program, issued the following statement:

“We commend the increased funding in Governor Hochul’s executive budget proposal for mental health and substance use care, alternatives to incarceration, and reentry services—these are urgently needed investments in critical public safety services. Yet, the proposed rollbacks to bail reform included in the budget would mark a perilous step backward for New York’s criminal legal system, effectively gutting the 2019 legislation and eliminating further long-standing protections in state bail law.

“Governor Hochul says she strongly supports the goal of bail reform—ensuring a legal system in which no one’s freedom depends on the contents of their wallet—and only seeks to provide a clearer standard for judges in bail-eligible cases. Yet, the rollbacks she proposes repeal New York’s long-held requirement that the court set bail and other release conditions with the sole purpose of reasonably assuring an accused person’s return for trial. By removing this legal standard and the 2019 reform’s mandate that judges use the least restrictive conditions to achieve that goal, the governor’s proposal will only result in more confusion, bias, inequity, and incarceration.

“The Vera Institute's analysis of bail reform data in New York shows that bail reform worked as intended: the statewide jail population decreased by 27 percent from April 2019 to December 2021. And contrary to fearmongering political rhetoric, no evidence exists proving that the reforms made New Yorkers less safe. Rather than promoting public safety, the proposed changes would result in arbitrary and capricious judicial decision-making, and New Yorkers’ odds of returning to their families would depend not on the law but on the judges to whom their cases are assigned. In New York City, where 35 people have died in custody over the last two years, these rollbacks will exacerbate the lethal crisis at Rikers and thwart its timely closure, resulting in further death and devastation. We, therefore, urge the legislature to reject Governor Hochul’s budget proposal wholesale and instead fund proven, community-based measures to foster a safe and thriving New York where wealth does not determine freedom.

“The people of New York want and deserve evidence-based public safety solutions. Instead of adopting this deeply destructive proposal, the legislature should invest in community-based services proven to support and stabilize New Yorkers before trial. Rather than the $20 million for pretrial services the governor’s budget maintains from last year, New York should invest at least $72 million in pretrial services provided by independent, nonprofit providers. These community-based programs build trust and connect people to tools enabling their success more effectively than programs run by law enforcement agencies, such as probation departments. New York should also establish an Office of Pretrial Services: a single statewide entity to manage funding, provide guidance, share best practices, monitor service quality, and collect and disseminate data. Investing in supportive housing, mental health and drug treatment, education, and employment, as well as targeting illegal gun sales, will prevent crime where doubling down on punishment and incarceration cannot.”


About the Vera Institute of Justice: The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and policy experts working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit vera.org.

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