Statement from Vera Institute of Justice President Nicholas Turner in Support of Governor Cuomo’s Proposed Criminal Justice Reforms

New York, NY—Two decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held: “In our society, liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.” Yet, on any given day, over 25,000 New Yorkers are held in jails across the 62 counties of New York State. Two-thirds are there pretrial because they cannot make bail. Many are held for days, months, even years, because of a lack of speedy trial. The use of pretrial detention isn’t limited to only the most serious cases. In some parts of the state, upwards of 80 percent of people held in jail are facing solely misdemeanor charges. Basic due process protections, including access to the evidence against them and the assistance of counsel, are lacking. 

There is a pressing urgency to reform bail, speedy trial, and discovery in New York so that pretrial detention is the carefully limited exception and not, as it is currently, the norm. Today, Governor Cuomo’s bold proposals for criminal justice reform shift the trend away from over-incarceration and towards liberty and fairness. By categorically eliminating the use of cash bail for certain cases, providing a truly speedy trial, and ensuring due process at each juncture in the life of a criminal case, these proposed reforms will reduce incarceration while promoting public safety. This is especially true for smaller and more rural counties across New York that have seen the biggest growth in the use of jail, and will pave the way for the closure of Rikers Island in New York City. We applaud the Governor’s commitment to fairness, due process, and for endorsing a vision of a criminal justice system that all New Yorkers can be proud of and others across the nation can look to as a model.

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