We’ve crunched the numbers on the effects of New York’s revised bail law.
Implemented in January 2020, New York’s initial bail reform was historic. Our analysis found in the year following the April 2019 passage of the law, it contributed to a 40 percent decline in New York City’s pretrial jail population.
But three months into the reforms, following a firestorm of sensationalized media coverage, the state passed a series of revisions, notably making more cases re-eligible for bail and detention. Those changes go into effect today. We recently published the first in-depth analysis of what those changes could mean.
‘Bail Reform Revisited’ projects the amendments could lead to a 16 percent increase in New York City’s pretrial jail population, relative to the effects of the initial legislation and the pre-COVID-19 jail population. This is especially troubling in the midst of a pandemic whose spread has been most intense behind bars. However, the report also finds even the revised legislation continues to rule out bail or detention in more than eight of 10 cases, a sea change from the pre-reform period.
The report—authored by our director and deputy director of jail reform, Mike Rempel and Krystal Rodriguez—also discusses a series of factors that could push the culture of pretrial decision-making in the direction of greater release, but that can't be incorporated into formal projections. These include the long-term effects of the jail reductions triggered by COVID-19, and the increased confidence in supervised release shown by judges in cases where bail remains an option. Should these and other trends continue, the jail population increase could prove smaller than we've projected, meaning, at least as it pertains to its jail reduction target, New York City's signal pledge to shutter its Rikers Island jail complex need not be affected.
You can also watch our recent online briefing featuring our jail reform experts and Jonathan Monsalve, the director of our court-based Brooklyn Justice Initiatives. He provides an on-the-ground take on what the changes could mean, especially regarding the supervised release program we operate in three of New York City's five boroughs.
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