In April 2019, New York State passed sweeping restrictions to the use of bail and pretrial detention. Implemented in January 2020, our analysis showed it ruled out both in almost nine out of 10 cases. We also found the legislation contributed to a 40 percent decline in New York City's pretrial jail population in the year since its passage.
In April 2020, three months after the reforms took effect, the state passed a series of significant revisions—notably making more cases and situations eligible again for bail and detention. Based on an analysis of New York City cases, we project—relative to the effects of the original law and the pre-COVID-19 jail population—the revised legislation will lead to a 16 percent increase in the number of people detained in the city's jails awaiting trial.
However, even under the amended law, 84 percent of total cases remain ineligible for bail, a sea change when contrasted to the landscape preceding either reform.
Our analysis concludes by weighing the factors, including the COVID-19 emergency, that could contribute to a culture change in pretrial decision-making—in the direction of less, or more, reliance on detention.