Vera Institute of Justice Responds to Gov. Hochul's State of the State Address

Organization Calls For Passage of Access to Representation Act, Investment in Historic Bail Reforms to Ensure Fairness in Immigration & Criminal Justice Systems

Contact: James Freedland | | 585-653-8453

ALBANY – In response to Governor Hochul’s State of the State remarks today, Nicholas Turner, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice, issued the following statement:

"We commend Governor Hochul for prioritizing safety and fairness in her State of the State address when it comes to improving New York’s criminal legal system. However, along with robust investments, we also cannot roll back hard-won reforms and must ensure all New Yorkers are not only safe, but thriving.

“While other states are playing politics by sending thousands of immigrants to New York, our state can demonstrate that a humane approach to immigration delivers safety and justice. Having a lawyer by their side will make a difference to the recently arrived immigrants seeking asylum and to all people in immigration proceedings. People facing deportation are far more likely to win relief and remain here with their families and loved ones if they have a lawyer on their side.

“But today, over 60,000 people in New York are estimated to be fending for themselves without lawyers in immigration court. As the executive budget is finalized, the state must fully fund immigration services and pass the Access to Representation Act, which will ensure the right to legal representation in these complicated cases.

“Likewise, the Governor's agenda on criminal justice must be driven by true solutions for safety and fairness. Bail reform, passed in 2019, ended a two-tiered system of justice where wealth, not safety, determined who stayed in jail and who returned home. Poor people, Black, and other people of color in New York bore the brunt of that unfair system. While opponents of progress have falsely blamed bail reform for an increase in crime, the evidence shows that bail reform works to deliver more justice and keeps communities safe.

“We commend Governor Hochul’s plan to double New York’s investment in alternatives to incarceration and triple the investment in community-based services, an essential step to the proper implementation of bail reform. We need not overturn judges’ duty to use the least restrictive means in ensuring a person’s return to court when our criminal legal system has the tools and funding to protect people’s safety and deliver justice equitably. We also urge the inclusion of new investments in pretrial services in the 2023 budget. Our judges must know there are well-funded services to support people during pretrial release.

“Experience shows that justice and safety can—and must—go hand in hand. And that a real commitment to public safety for New York requires investment in proven, community-based solutions that prevent crime before it happens and don’t just react after. We look forward to working with the governor and lawmakers and pushing them to take action to ensure legal services are provided for immigrants facing deportation and that due process protections are guaranteed for those in the criminal legal system.”

About Vera’s Messaging Justice Project: Every New Yorker deserves to feel safe, and we can achieve this by investing in proven solutions that prevent crime before it happens, and not just react after. New Yorkers need real solutions from their leaders, not scare tactics, and research continues to show that our reliance on prosecution, incarceration, and punishment may actually make communities less safe. Supporting policies like affordable and supportive housing, pretrial and reentry services, mental health and substance use care, alternatives to incarceration, community violence intervention programs, and public health approaches to community needs are a proven approach to increase public safety. It’s time we invest in the programs that we know work to reduce recidivism, support our young people, and keep our communities safe and thriving.

About the Campaign for Access, Representation, and Equity (CARE) for Immigrant Families: Vera works to advance universal representation nationally, including leading the CARE campaign, a coalition of leading organizations and elected officials united to pass the Access to Representation Act. The bill (S999/A0071) will guarantee access to lawyers for immigrants at risk of deportation in New York. Sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, the legislation would be the first in the nation to create a statewide right to legal representation for people facing deportation who cannot afford it, whether they have recently arrived in the state or have been New Yorkers for decades.


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

Correction: an earlier version indicated that investment in reentry services was doubled. “We commend Governor Hochul’s plan to double New York’s investment in alternatives to incarceration and triple the investment in reentry services"

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