With the ongoing attacks on New York’s 2020 bail reform laws, there has been increased public concern and media interest – not to mention a constant stream of misinformation — surrounding the reforms and their impact on public safety. As a result, there has been widespread confusion about what the law actually does (for example, after many blamed the reforms for a recent homicide, an analysis quickly debunked the law’s role in the crime).
Whether you are a policymaker, reporter, or concerned New Yorker, having access to verified facts is critical to being well-informed. That’s why New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) compiled the following resources that provide accurate information to help you better understand the facts about New York’s bail laws:
The Facts on Bail Reform in New York City
Center for Court Innovation
This brief from Center for Court Innovation provides a summary of publicly available data and research on bail reform, including its impact on crime, racial inequities, and the criminal legal system at large, prepared in response to questions from community members and elected officials.
New York Bail Reform: A Quick Guide to Common Questions and Concerns
Cornell Law Review
This guide explains the history of bail in New York and the variety of factors that led to the passing (and amending) of the bail reforms. The original bail reform law, signed in 2019, eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges. Despite limited data, the law was amended in 2020 after many criticized the law before it was barely even implemented. Here is the full text of the amended law that went into effect in July 2020.
New York’s Latest Bail Law Changes Explained
Brennan Center for Justice
This analysis from the Brennan Center explains what the law in its current version actually does and doesn’t do. For most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, judges are not permitted to set cash bail, instead must release people with the least restrictive conditions necessary to reasonably assure they will come back to court. In all other cases, mostly violent felonies, judges have the discretion to set cash bail or to hold people in jail, or to release them, with or without pretrial conditions designed to ensure their return to court.
Debunking Lies About Bail Reform
New Yorkers United for Justice
Opponents of bail reform often blame the law changes for an increase in violent crime, stoking public safety concerns whenever there is a tragic crime in the news. However, these claims are based on misinformation and lack of evidence. This NYUJ analysis debunks various lies or inaccuracies regarding bail reform that have been made by public officials.
Releasing People Pretrial Doesn’t Harm Public Safety
Prison Policy Institute
For some, it may be easy to conclude that an increase in people released from jail pretrial will equal a statistical increase in crime. However, years of research prove otherwise. An analysis from the Prison Policy Institute found that all but one of surveyed jurisdictions that passed pretrial reform saw decreases or negligible increases in crime after the reforms were implemented (the one study with inconclusive results was New York State, where the reform law had been in place for only three months at the time of the evaluation).
Pretrial Release Dashboard
New York City Criminal Justice Agency
This easy-to-use dashboard shows all of the people who were released on pretrial on a given month in New York City. The data effectively debunks the myth that the bail reforms led to an increase in crime. In reality, the data demonstrates a decrease in the number of people who were arrested while on pretrial release when comparing the first eight months of 2019 with the first eight months of 2021.
Outside of New York, similar pretrial reforms have been implemented in a growing number of states. This 50-state report analyzes the impact of cash bail reforms in the U.S. and provides key considerations for policymakers interested in implementing bail reforms in their jurisdictions.
What’s (Really) Driving Crime in New York
New Yorkers United for Justice
The rise in gun violence and some other types of violent crimes is not specific to New York State or other jurisdictions that passed bail reforms. Then what is actually behind the recent crime trends? This NYUJ analysis takes a look at the many drivers of crime during the pandemic, while debunking the narrative that criminal justice reforms are to blame for the uptick in certain categories of violent crime.
The Facts on Bail Reform and Crime Rates in New York State
Brennan Center for Justice
This analysis helps explain why there is no clear connection between recent crime increases and the bail reform law enacted in 2019. The explainer concludes that the data does not currently support further revisions to the legislation.
Hidden Cost of Pretrial Detention (Revisited)
After looking at nearly 1.5 million cases of people booked into Kentucky jails between 2009-2018, this investigative analysis found that the effects of pretrial detention was all too clear: the longer a person spent time in pretrial detention, it resulted in poorer outcomes.
Policy Analysis: Estimating the Effects of Governor Kathy Hochul’s Proposed Criminal Justice Legislation
Data Collaborative for Justice
In March 2022, proposed changes to bail reforms developed by Governor Kathy Hochul’s office were widely circulated in the media. Many advocates, including NYUJ, opposed the proposed policy changes and legislative rollbacks. This analysis from Data Collaborative for Justice helps explains why.
NYC Bail Trends Since 2019
New York City Comptroller’s Office
If rollbacks to bail reforms aren’t the answer, then what is? A recent analysis from New York City’s Comptroller’s Office concluded that in lieu of rollbacks, legislators should instead focus on implementation of the law. A closer look at the data showed that despite the reforms, bail-setting continues to drive pretrial detention and siphon money from low-income communities of color.