New York's controversial law ending cash bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses will change in the new state budget. The changes will mean a variety of criminal offenses — including sex trafficking, sex degree burglary, and money laundering — will once again require cash bail.
As highlighted by Democrats in the state Senate, the changes include $40 million for the implementation of new evidentiary discovery measures. But the changes for criminal justice advocates like Erin George of Citizen Action go too far.
"This is absolutely a rollback," she said. "The changes made on bail are not minor changes, they are not tweaks. These are rollbacks that will completely reverse the gains made on the bail reform law."
Criminal justice reformers say now is not the time to put more people in jails amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
"This is a huge betrayal of racial justice, this is a betrayal of democracy in terms of the way it's been moved and a betrayal of public health," George said.
But Senator Jim Tedisco says the changes did not go far enough and should have also allowed judges the discretion to remand people to jail.
"The worst thing we could do is give a false sense of security where the public and taxpayers think everything is fine right now," said Tedisco, a Republican who represents the Capital Region. "I think you're going to see a lot of people upset."
Tedisco says the bail law will once again take center stage once the pandemic is over.
"This will be the number one public safety issue once we get through this virus," Tedisco said. "But it's going to rear its ugly head because very little has changed."
The law will take effect in 90 days.