The Bail Reform Debate rages on across the country. New York’s passage of a statewide act has met scrutiny from both sides of the political divide. As reported by The Washington Post, the new law took effect January 1 and almost immediately met backlash. While unlike California’s law which if successful on the November 2020 ballot would eliminate cash bail altogether, New York’s law allows judges to make the decision whether to release a person on their own recognizance or to impose “non-monetary conditions” of release. Offenders accused of violent felonies may still have to post bail as a condition of their release within the judge’s discretion.
As with California’s attempt at bail reform, many wonder whether New York’s legislation considered all viewpoints. Bail reform opposition has brought together a unique set of groups ranging from bail bond representatives to law enforcement to human rights activists. As reported by the Washington Post, the New York State Sheriffs Association opposes the legislation since not all “stakeholders” were able to “weigh in.”
In California many human rights activists and civil rights groups vehemently disagree with the use of risk assessment tools to determine a person’s eligibility for release. Opponents to these algorithms argue that the data they use in inherently biased.
The debate continues throughout many states and even at the city and county level. One thing that is clear is that criminal justice reform must happen. It does not appear that a one-size-fits-all approach eliminating or significantly reducing cash bail is the answer. Many states will look to the voters in California to see how bail reform plays out in one of the most liberal areas of the country.
Read the full Washington Post article “Class, race and geography emerge as flashpoints in New York’s bail reform debate.”