Gov. Kathy Hochul and her top aides are discussing options with officials in the state Office of Court Administration about how to better educate New York judges to correctly set bail in wake of recent changes to state bail laws.
The governor addressed the issue at a press conference in Albany on Thursday about statewide illegal gun trafficking. She suggested continuing legal education classes for judges to help them understand their discretion in setting bail during an event in New York City the day before.
"I will take from what I'm hearing there may not be an understanding of what they can do," Hochul said. "I'm willing to undertake that. I'm willing to have the state pay for it. I need to start seeing results here."
Such training would likely be negotiated during budget talks next year.
The discussion about the impact of the state's bail laws on crime rates and gun violence comes on the heels of New York City Mayor Eric Adams' press conference Wednesday. He called for Hochul and legislative leaders to call lawmakers back to Albany for a special session to amend the bail laws, citing New York Police Department statistics showing cases of a small number of repeat offenders that are often released for nonviolent offenses and go on to commit violent crimes.
"We have a relatively small group of people who are recidivous and they are exploiting these reforms every day," he said Wednesday. "They're making us unsafe. They're taking advantage of a system that does not adequately account for their criminal records. We acknowledge this and we must adjust to this. That's the only way we are going to deal with this crisis."
Adams, a former NYPD captain, has a history of clashing with fellow Democrats about bail reform.
The governor says it's too soon to make more changes to bail laws after they were amended in the latest state budget passed this spring, including additional factors judges can consider when making a decision on bail, an expansion for when bail can be set for repeat offenders and more. Those changes went into effect May 9.
"If judges aren't using the broad discretion they have because they believe their hands are tied, I want to help assure them and educate them that changes were made," Hochul said. "Despite all the rhetoric and politicization of this [topic], good changes were made. I know this because I fought hard for every single one of them."
But the governor said she agrees with Adams about a failure within the state court system in implementing state bail policies. Hochul has repeatedly urged district attorneys and judges to do their jobs properly for the most accurate picture of the state's criminal justice system.
"Every one of the cases that Mayor Adams talked about in his press conference yesterday... I agree with him 100% that they should never have been let out," she said. "Every one of them was bail-eligible. Every single one of them could have been held by judges using their discretion and the factors that are in the law."