Our Voices

Statement on Senate Bail Reform Proposal in “Big Ugly” Bill S9097

This weekend, the Senate Republicans released a “Big Ugly” bill—S9097—which includes a proposal to “reform” bail practices in New York. This proposal disregards the need for bold and sweeping bail reform that will drastically reduce pretrial detention across the state and end disparities in our jails.

Nearly 70% of the 25,000 people held in jails across New York have not even been convicted of a crime; they are simply awaiting their day in court. That is over 16,000 New Yorkers sitting in jails every day, the vast majority of whom are detained because they cannot afford cash bail, even when set at amounts as low as $500. S9097 does not eliminate money bail for any category of charges, nor does it offer the due process protections that are our Constitutional right. The bill works in direct opposition to the supposed cornerstone of our criminal legal system: that people are presumed innocent and a charge, alone, is no indication of guilt. S9097 will preserve a system that: disproportionately harms Black, Brown and poor communities; shatters families; encourages plea bargaining and prosecutorial overreach; and aggravates class and race-based bias in our criminal justice system. The undersigned groups—which include criminal justice reform advocates, people and communities directly impacted by mass incarceration, grassroots organizations, legal advocates and community groups—reject S9097 for these reasons.

Albany must address the crisis of mass jailing, and any reform to the bail system must be in service of dramatically reducing the over-use of pretrial detention in NYS and rectifying systemic inequalities in the criminal justice system. There are different approaches to reform, and while groups have taken different positions on various 2018 bail proposals, we all strongly agree that real bail reform must go far beyond presumptions of release and protect the presumption of innocence guaranteed by our Constitution. There must be robust due process for people who are detained, including counsel, a meaningful hearing, and discovery disclosures. Any nonfinancial conditions of release must be narrowly tailored to be the least restrictive conditions possible. The Senate Majority proposal does not achieve even these most basic reform provisions, and therefore must be rejected.

While criminal justice reform is a topline priority for our organizations this legislative session, we are unwilling to accept legislation—on any issue, from criminal justice to education—that harms poor people and people of color. We will not compromise our values and commitments to our communities in order to pass criminal justice reform. We urge the legislature to remain committed to these principles, as well.

Signed, Listed in alphabetical order by org name 37 signatories as of 10:40 am on 6/19/2018

• Albany County Public Defender

• Bronx Defenders

• Bronx Freedom Fund

• Brooklyn Community Bail Fund

• Brooklyn Defender Services

• Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement

• Center for Community Alternatives

• Center for Constitutional Rights

• Citizen Action New York

• College and Community Fellowship

• Color of Change

• Correctional Association of New York

• Corrections Accountability Project, Urban Justice Center

• Discovery for Justice

• FWD.us

• Innocence Project

• Interfaith Center of New York

• Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier

• JustLeadershipUSA

• Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice

• Legal Aid Society

• Legal Aid Society of Westchester

• Make the Road New York

• Middle Collegiate Church

• New York Civil Liberties Union

• New York Communities for Change

• New York State Council of Churches

• New York State Defenders Association

• Park Avenue Christian Church

• Partnership for the Public Good Buffalo

• Policing and Social Justice Project, Brooklyn College

• Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

• Unchained

• Urban Justice Center


• WESPAC Foundation

• Youth Represent