(NEW YORK, NY) – As negotiations over New York’s delayed Fiscal Year 2024 budget continue this week in Albany, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem today urged the legislature to resist any rollbacks on hard-fought bail reform and discovery laws.  

 “The Governor has decided to delay the budget over her desire to incarcerate more Black, brown and low-income New Yorkers,” said Meghna Philip, Special Litigation Attorney with NDS of Harlem. “This annual capitulation to racist politics over people’s rights and safety is unacceptable. We recognize that both houses of the legislature have rejected the Governor’s bail and discovery law proposals in their responses to her draft budget and call on both the Senate and Assembly Majorities to hold the line on this reasonable and principled position.”  

To address the harmful nature pretrial detention, advocates fought to pass bail reform legislation in 2019 that limited the scope of New York’s unjust bail system for the majority of people accused of violations, misdemeanors, and nonviolent felony offenses. Since then, many people still face the harms of bail and pretrial detention, including the increased likelihood of pleading guilty, losing their job, losing their homes, and experiencing physical and mental health issues. Only a few months after the reform took effect in 2020, then-Governor Cuomo rolled back the reform, weakening its impact by expanding the number of categories of offenses eligible for bail. Governor Hochul further rolled back bail reform in April 2022.    

Despite these previous rollbacks, bail reform continues to be a success story. Nearly everyone (96%) released without bail in New York goes on to live their lives without rearrest for a violent crime. Since bail reform went into effect, even fewer people released on their own recognizance have been rearrested during the pendency of their cases than before (18% in 2019 down to 16% in 2021). 

NDS today also decried efforts by New York’s District Attorneys to undermine hard-fought reforms in discovery laws — which simply require prosecutors to disclose all relevant information in a case in a reasonable timeframe.  

 “Discovery laws were enacted to prevent unjust incarceration and wrongful convictions,” Philip said. “They are necessary to ensure that defense counsel can thoroughly investigate cases, properly advise clients, and develop an effective defense. They are also necessary to allow people facing charges to make an informed decision about whether or not to plead guilty. Any amendment to these laws will bring us back to a time where evidence was buried and empty statements by the prosecution of readiness for trial were the norm.” 

Contact: Emily Whitfield, ewhitfield@neighborhooddefender.org