Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration is taking an increasingly critical view of county jails, releasing a report Wednesday about the five most troubled around the state. The move comes a month after Cuomo signaled he wanted more state oversight of local jails.
"Punishment is supposed to be imposed when one is found guilty. Incredibly, 75 percent of the people in New York City jails have not been convicted of any crime," Cuomo said, "and a similar story exists in other jails across the state."
The governor last month proposed criminal justice provisions that would speed up trials and end cash bail for those accused of misdemeanor and non-violent felonies. All are meant, he says, to address inequalities in the system.
"The blunt, ugly reality is that, too often, if you can make bail, you are set free, and if you are poor, you are punished," Cuomo said.
The proposals are facing criticism from lawmakers in both parties. Republicans have signaled they are unlikely to accept them. And Democrats in the state Senate want him to go further.
"You're dealing with people who don't want to make any changes, so it's really important for us to be clear and draw that line in the sand that, if we're really going to do these things, these are the changes that are going to help us get to that end," said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Democrats this week unveiled an expanded criminal justice package that would end cash bail entirely and require automatic discovery of evidence before plea deals are made.
"This a rare case where not doing it the right way may actually do more damage than what may normally be a half measure," said Sen. Mike Gianaris (D - Queens). "You're actually taking it in the wrong direction."
The proposals are embraced by reform advocates who have long sought to reduce the number of people incarcerated in state prisons and local jails.
"I cannot call this a criminal justice when we have over 25,000 people languishing in cages," said Shanequa Charles with Just Leadership USA.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio detailed alternatives to the controversial Rikers Island jail, but the Cuomo administration, in a statement, said the 10-year timeline for the closing the facility is unacceptable.