The debate over New York's bail laws and how the criminal justice system should treat people accused of crimes will likely continue after the state budget is finalized, advocates on Friday said.
Rank-and-file state lawmakers were gone from the state Capitol on Friday, but a small group of advocates who oppose any changes to New York's 2019 cashless bail law rallied once again in the otherwise empty building.
"I would like to remain optimistic about it and the fact that I'm here today with our supporters and trying to speak to legislators, I absolutely do have hope when we can pull it out," said Marvin Mayfield, the director of organizing for the Center for Community Alternatives. "We will continue to push for this going forward. The outcome is just far too important."
Gov. Kathy Hochul is seeking changes to New York's law that largely ended cash bail for many charges that would expand the circumstances in which bail is required, such as for gun charges and alleged repeat offenses. The initial measure was approved as part of an effort to reduce the number of people in jail awaiting trial.
But a rise in violent crime across the country and in New York have led to a push for changes to the law in an election year in which voters have signaled public safety and crime are key concerns.
Hochul wants the changes to the law to be included in the state budget, which is yet to be agreed to amid the start of the new fiscal year. The governor has presented lawmakers with a public safety plan that also addresses issues surrounding discovery in criminal cases, and she has backed a measure that would seal many criminal records to enable housing and employment for people who have completed their sentences.
The bail debate, however, remains the top-tier issue in the negotiations and the key sticking point as of Thursday when lawmakers left the Capitol with no deal in sight.
Advocates like Mayfield have opposed any effort to scale back or tweak the law. And they won't give up the debate even if those who want changes are successful in the budget talks once a spending plan is finalized.
"If there are we are resolved to make sure any bail legislation that would roll back or anything taken away from the wins we got in 2019, we're going to revisit," Mayfield said. "It's too important to just leave and let people languish."