Thursday, December 08, 2022

NY bail fight marks Democrat’s debate on crime

NEW YORK ( Associated Press) – It’s hard to find someone on board with New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan to tighten state bail laws, two years after they were redone to prevent people from being sent to jail for being poor is.

Proponents of reform say the system should be left alone. Police leaders and even some of the governor’s fellow Democrats say the proposal does not go far enough to reverse what they see as lenient treatment of criminals.

The debate over bail in New York is indicative of a fight taking place elsewhere in the US

An increase in violence during the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Democrats to show they are strictly against crime ahead of this year’s midterm elections, from the White House, but the party is struggling to find a common message with progressives who need it. encourages police reform and moderates who focus more on rising crime rates.

Hochul’s attempt to strike a middle ground provoked criticism from all ends of the political spectrum.

“I think it’s a sign that you’re in the right place,” she said in March about her plan. The proposal will continue to limit cases in which people will be forced to post bail, but more crimes will be eligible for detention and judges will be given more discretion to consider an accused’s criminal history.

New York has changed its bail laws in response to public outcry over inmates charged with petty crimes who are being held in jail for long periods while awaiting trial because they could not afford to pay bail – a system where a person set up cash as a guarantee that they will return to court.

The state’s response was to eliminate cash bail for many non-violent offenses – a reform that frustrated some law enforcers who warned that people released back to the streets would commit new crimes.

But with violent crime across America, crime figures were an easy target and a longtime boomerang for Republicans, who wasted no opportunity to make it a campaign issue in races across the U.S., including governor’s races in Illinois, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. .

Democrats, who are preparing for tough midterm elections, are eager to prove they are responding, emphasizing in some cases efforts to provide more money to police departments, while making little mention of reforms they adopted a few years ago.

In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz is up for re-election and has toured the state to advance his $ 300 million public safety plan. He did not focus on the reform measures he signed after police killed George Floyd in the state almost two years ago.

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who is also up for re-election this year, has been hammered by Republicans over crime and, like Hochul, is facing two-party pressure to tighten bail laws..

A record series of murders in Albuquerque have increased pressure on New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, including some fellow Democrats. The first-term governor joined efforts to ban pre-trial release for certain violent crimes, although some lawmakers in her own party refused to turn back reforms that largely put an end to bail.

President Joe Biden highlighted funding for police in his budget this week – for body cameras, crime prevention strategies, drug treatment, mental health and criminal justice reform.

This winter, he made a trip to New York City to stand with the city’s new mayor, Eric Adams, a former police captain.

“The answer is not to repay the police,” Biden said. “It’s about giving you the tools, the training, the funding to be partners, to be protectors and to know the community.”

In comparison, while campaigning for president, Biden rather talked more about criminal justice reforms and the need to reverse some of the most stringent measures of the 1994 Crime Bill which he helped write.

In New York, the heated debate over bail was one factor that caused lawmakers to miss an April 1 deadline to pass a new state budget.

Hochul initially said she did not want to touch on the state’s bail laws until she saw data indicating that the reforms were responsible for an increase in crime. Democrats in charge of the state legislature also said they were not interested in pursuing reforms.

A recent report by New York’s fiscal watchdog found that the percentage of people who committed new crimes after being released from prison did not move since the bail reform measure was passed.

But now some Democrats have joined Republicans in calling for a recall. They include the U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island, who challenges Hochul in the governor’s race; Adams, who has made the fight against crime in New York a top priority; and former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who began criticizing the bail reforms he signed while considering running for office again.

At one point in recent weeks, Hochul changed his mind and drew up a plan to amend the law. However, she avoided talking about it in public for days after it was leaked to the media.

Almost a week later, Hochul defended the plan in an op-edand says that although state bail laws were not the main cause of an increase in shootings during the pandemic, they needed to be changed.

Democrat Jumaane Williams, New York City’s public advocate who also challenges Hochul in the governor’s race, said the governor “must show courage and leadership on this issue, or at least choose a side between instigators and facts.”

It is unclear whether Democrats in charge of the State House will meet the governor somewhere in the middle as they continue to negotiate, but pressure has increased in recent days.

New York Police Commissioner visited Albany to insist on reforms. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.


Associated Press authors Colleen Long in Washington and Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contributed to this report.

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