New York Governor Hochul Affirms Her Support for Controversial Bail Reform

Policy

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to the media following an appearance in the Chinatown area of New York City, November 10, 2021. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

New York governor Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday that she will “absolutely stand behind” her support for bail reform, potentially thwarting New York City mayor Eric Adams’s plans to combat gun violence.

“I will absolutely stand behind the fundamental premise on why we needed bail reform in the first place,” Hochul said during a press conference about an anti-gun violence team where the mayor appeared virtually.

Hochul expressed support for the basis of the controversial legislation passed in 2019 that eliminated cash bail for defendants accused of misdemeanor and “non-violent” felony crimes. Some of the bail-reform changes were rolled back one year later in response to an outcry from law enforcement and the public.

“It was just a terrible law that was passed,” Nassau County Republican Committee chairman Joseph Cairo Jr. previously told National Review of the bail-reform law. “It gives criminals the ability to commit a crime today, get arrested, be brought into court later today and be free again tonight and go out and commit another burglary — this has actually happened.”

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On Monday, Adams said lawmakers “must allow judges to take dangerousness into account” when setting bail or deciding to jail someone pending trial. 

Hochul said there are “opportunities to have these conversations with the mayor, as well as with the legislature as the session unfolds, on any reforms that are recommended.”

She went on to accuse judges, Republicans, and moderate Democrats who support changes to the law of playing politics, the New York Post reported. The governor cited the case of Kalief Browder, a 22-year-old who died by suicide after spending three years on Rikers Island awaiting trial on charges that were ultimately dropped, as a reason for why bail reform is necessary.

“Others, who are trying to politicize this, and the other party don’t seem to acknowledge why there was a need for change,” she said. “You had two individuals accused of identical criminal offenses, even stealing a backpack. And one person goes to Rikers for three years because they couldn’t post bail; another person — whose parents have money or they’re living in the suburbs — . . . can head back after posting bail to their jobs to school in a different life.”

She continued: “If reforms are needed based on data that is still being gathered, I’m willing to have those conversations, so I don’t feel just because people, for political reasons, want me to give an answer, that’s not how I operate,” she said. “I don’t cave to pressure. I do what’s right based on all the facts that come before me.”

Hochul’s comments come after two NYPD officers were killed in an ambush shooting in Harlem last week.

That shooting led the official in charge of court operations for New York State and six Republican members of Congress from New York to agree with Adams’s call to alter the 2019 bail-reform laws to give judges more control over setting bail for defendants judges find present a public-safety risk.

However, New York State Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and state assembly speaker Carl Heastie have both opposed Adams’s request for state lawmakers to reform the controversial laws.

Since Hochul succeeded disgraced ex-governor Andrew Cuomo in August, roughly 740 people have been shot in New York City, NYPD data show.

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