In 2019, the New York’s State budget included sweeping criminal justice reform legislation that eliminated cash bail and pretrial detention for many misdemeanor and nonviolent felony defendants, among other watershed provisions. After receiving community and lobbying organization input, feedback, and massive pushback on the reform measures, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo approved changes to the recently amended bail statute in April of 2020, in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 amendments scaled back the 2019 legislation by significantly expanding the offenses eligible for bail and pre-trial detention.
This article aims to explore the impact of the use of cash bail on New York’s criminal justice landscape, and the ways in which bail reform legislation has changed that landscape. This exploration of bail reform legislation includes an examination of the ways that reform efforts have begun the process of equalizing outcomes for some low-income New Yorkers who come into contact with the criminal justice system in party by assuaging some of the collateral consequences stemming from pre-trial detention, as well as areas of the law that have room to be refined through the lessons of implanting the new statute. The article further aims to answer important questions for people concerned about the impact of bail reform on the safety of their communities and the efficacy of the criminal justice system.