STATEMENT BY COMMUNITY MEMBERS AND ADVOCATES ON THE NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY PASSING WALKER BAIL REFORM BILL A10137A

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, 6.12.2018

For inquiries, contact: gabriel sayegh, gabriel@katalcenter.org.

(New York): Today, the New York State Assembly took a bold step towards making our criminal justice system fairer by passing bail reform bill A10137A, sponsored by Assemblywoman Latrice Walker. This comprehensive bill will address and rectify the wealth-and race-based disparities that plague our criminal justice system, while simultaneously restoring fairness and equality to a system that routinely punishes poor and vulnerable New Yorkers.

On any given day in New York State, approximately 25,000 people are detained in local jails. The vast majority of these people—nearly 70 percent—have not been found guilty of a crime; they are being detained pretrial, largely because they do not have enough money to pay cash bail. A10137A will effectively address and reverse these trends by eliminating cash bail for nearly all misdemeanors and non-violent felony cases. The bill also vests judges with the authority to impose non-monetary conditions of release to ensure people’s return to court. Critically, the costs of the conditions will not be passed on to presumptively innocent people or their families. This protects low-income communities from transferring their wealth to the state, while also ensuring pretrial detention is the carefully limited exception rather than the norm.

In his 2018 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo plainly stated: “Race and wealth should not be factors in our justice system. It’s that clear.” The Assembly has taken an affirmative and critical step towards eliminating these very factors with the passage of A10137A. It is imperative that Governor Cuomo and the Senate now answer the call for meaningful and robust bail reform, and act immediately to ensure A10137A becomes law before the close of the 2018 legislative session.

Statements by Community Members, Criminal Defense & Advocacy Groups:

"Now is the time to reform our criminal justice system and the NY State Assembly has taken a stand by passing bail reform bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Latrice Walker. These changes never take place overnight and they always require protracted struggles from families like mine who have been impacted by the system.  We need the Senate and Governor Cuomo to take it the rest of the way,” said Akeem Browder, brother of Kalief Browder 

"People shouldn't be in jail just because they can't pay bail. We've been up in Albany to educate legislators about the need for real bail reform, so it's good that the Assembly passed this important bill.  But where is the Senate and Governor Cuomo?  We aren't going to stop until we win justice for our communities," said Donzelle Fyffe, member of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice

“Brooklyn Defender Services applauds the New York State Assembly’s passage of comprehensive bail reform that would eliminate money bail in misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services. “Reform of our current bail system is necessary and urgent. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers suffer the brutality of pretrial detention every year simply because they are poor and cannot afford bail. The right to pretrial freedom is inherent to a presumption of innocence and is a moral and human rights imperative. We urge the Senate to pass and the Governor to sign this critical reform into law before the end of session.”

"For decades, our broken bail system has been a driver of mass incarceration," said Justine Olderman, Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders. "Every day, approximately 16,000 people sit in New York jails awaiting trial -- each one presumed innocent -- unable to afford the price of their freedom. The over-reliance on money bail exacerbates and perpetuates the race- and wealth-based disparities that have come to define our criminal justice system. With the passage of the Walker Bail Reform Bill (A. 10137A) -- which would eliminate money bail for the vast majority of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies and ensure robust due process for all -- we can begin to envision a system that protects the presumption of innocence and makes liberty the norm. The Bronx Defenders calls on the Senate and Governor Cuomo to take swift action and pass the Walker Reform Bill before the end of the legislative session. New Yorkers cannot afford to wait any longer for a fairer and more just pretrial justice system."

“A fundamental tenet of our criminal justice system is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” said Susan C. Bryant, Acting Director of the New York State Defenders Association. “Despite this, every year, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are locked up before trial simply because they cannot afford cash bail, a situation that is unfair to poor and working class people. We commend the Assembly for its leadership on this important issue with the passage of the Walker Bail Reform Bill (A.10137A). This bill takes a major step towards reforming our criminal justice system, with the elimination of cash bail for most low-level crimes, and a fairer and more reasonable bail process for other crimes. We urge the Senate and Governor Cuomo to support this bill, which advances the cause of equal justice by seeking to make pre-trial release the norm and pre-trial detention the exception.”

“Senseless pretrial jailing shatters families, exacerbates class and racial biases in the criminal justice system and wastes taxpayer dollars. We applaud the New York State Assembly and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker for passing the Walker Reform Bill (A.10137A) which reforms New York bail practices and will safely and effectively drive down New York's jail populations,” said Todd Schulte, President of FWD.us. “This marks an important first step in the long fight to fix New York's broken pretrial system. With only 5 legislative days left this session, it's up to the Senate to finish the job and make these and other long overdue pretrial reforms law before the end of session.”

“The Walker Bail Reform Bill (A.10137A) represents an essential and affirmative step towards drastically reducing the number of people detained pretrial across New York State, particularly upstate. We applaud the Assembly for passing a bill that will eliminate cash bail on low-level charges and have far-reaching effects in Westchester County, where 92% of people are unable to post bail on the same day it is set,” said Clare Degnan, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County. “It is imperative that the Senate and the Governor finish what the Assembly has started, and ensure comprehensive bail reform happens before the end of the legislative session.” 

"Youth Represent thanks the New York State Assembly for fighting for fairness, due process, and real justice in the criminal justice system," said Laurie Parise, Executive Director of Youth Represent. "Today's reform package takes a critical steps towards reforming the system of imprisoning people simply because they are too poor to pay bail; substantially restricts the use of solitary confinement in prisons and jails and prohibits its use for youth under 21; and creates vital mechanisms for law enforcement accountability.  We urge the NYS Senate to pass and the Governor to sign this package into law."

"For too long, our criminal justice system has favored the rich and punished the poor. Today, the Assembly put poor communities of color first by passing bail reform bill A10137A," said gabriel sayegh, Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. "We thank Assemblywoman Walker for her leadership, and thank the Assembly Majority for advancing legislation promote safety and justice, and to ensure that people can rejoin their families, their jobs, and their communities. No one should be in jail simply because they can't afford to buy their freedom. The Senate and Governor Cuomo must take immediate action to advance justice by passing this legislation and signing it into law."   

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