2018 NYS Legislative Agenda: Advance criminal justice reform and policies that will reduce mass incarceration

Advance criminal justice reform and policies that will reduce mass incarceration

Eliminate or Reduce the Financial Conditions of Pretrial Release. The City Bar joins in the growing chorus of organizations and elected officials in supporting bail reform in New York State.  As long as New Yorkers who have not been convicted of any crime are jailed simply because they are too poor to pay bail, the need for reform is undeniable.  Judges should be encouraged to use all facets of the current bail system to reduce unnecessary incarceration and should set bail amounts only after taking into account an individual’s ability to pay.  The successful use of charitable bail bonds, credit card bail, and supervised release programs have already illustrated the efficacy of alternative, non-commercial bail practices.  We further recommend the elimination of for-profit commercial bail bonds in New York.  The use of for-profit bail bonds is on the rise in New York, and their continued use creates discriminatory standards of release in New York’s notoriously problematic bail system.

Enact Comprehensive Sentencing Reform.  We support efforts to review New York’s sentencing laws and reform them in a way that is fair and effective while also maintaining public safety: 

  • Repeal or reduce mandatory minimum sentencing provisions where possible and reduce the sentences recommended by sentencing guidelines and similar laws for non-violent offenses.
  • Pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which would provide greater discretion to judges when sentencing defendants who are survivors of domestic violence.
  • Pass the One Day to Protect New Yorkers Act, which would reduce the maximum sentence for class A misdemeanor offenses from one year to 364 days, thereby mitigating the disproportionate consequences facing immigrant New Yorkers—including lawfully present permanent residents (green card holders), asylees, and victims of domestic violence – who may face deportation for a single minor conviction.
  • Expand the sentencing alternatives to prison including drug programs, mental health programs and job training programs.

Support Programs and Policies that Allow Incarcerated Individuals to Successfully Reenter Society. 

  • Expand the availability of rehabilitative services, including counseling and educational opportunities, during and following incarceration so that individuals can successfully reenter society and avoid recidivism.
  • Seal or expunge criminal records in certain circumstances so that individuals do not face the kinds of collateral consequences that create virtually insurmountable barriers to successful reentry into their communities.
  • Advance legislation that would help those with criminal records find employment, such as a statewide “Fair Chance Act” and a uniform “Certificate of Rehabilitation” in lieu of the current Certificates of Relief from Disabilities and Good Conduct.
  • The Fair Access to Education Act, which would prevent discrimination in the college admission process for individuals previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses.

Read “Mass Incarceration: Where Do We Go From Here?” to learn more at these criminal justice reform initiatives.