New York Budget Backslides On Bail Reform, Moves Forward On Campaign Financing Reform

this budget falls short when it comes to crim­inal justice. By rolling back progress on bail reform
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Friday, New York State lawmakers enacted budget legis­la­tion for fiscal year 2023, includ­ing $20.5 million for the new statewide small donor public finan­cing program start­ing this fall. The legis­la­tion also contained changes to the state’s crim­inal justice laws.

Lawmakers partially rolled back recent reforms to the state’s bail law, among other things making a broader range of cases involving alleged second offenses, occur­ring while a defend­ant is released, eligible for jail deten­tion for those who can’t afford bail. This change could increase the number of people behind bars and racial dispar­it­ies in deten­tion. In addi­tion, lawmakers changed the rules for the “discov­ery” process, giving prosec­utors more leeway in when they share the evid­ence they plan to use at trial.

Ames Grawert, senior coun­sel in the Justice Program at the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the follow­ing comment:

“We are deeply disap­poin­ted by lawmakers’ decision to further weaken bail reform and change the rules of discov­ery in a way that risks excus­ing delayed disclos­ure of evid­ence by prosec­utors. These recent reforms were vital steps toward build­ing a fairer justice system, and key to redu­cing racial dispar­it­ies through­out our legal system. We now know that bail reform did not drive recent trends in crime and viol­ent crime — under­cut­ting years of fear­mon­ger­ing by some lawmakers and law enforce­ment offi­cials.While crime has risen since 2019, bail reform is not the prob­lem, and rolling it back to further crim­in­al­ize poverty is not the solu­tion.”

Joanna Zdanys, senior coun­sel in the Elec­tions and Govern­ment Program at the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the follow­ing comment:

“Today’s budget takes New York one step closer to a campaign finance system that works for all New York­ers, not just the wealth­i­est few. Lead­ers in Albany provided the funds neces­sary to launch the state’s ground­break­ing new small donor public finan­cing program this fall.

“Small donor public finan­cing will give all New York­ers a greater say in the policies that can have the heav­iest impact on histor­ic­ally margin­al­ized and low-income communit­ies, like crim­inal justice, educa­tion, hous­ing, and health­care. It will make small-donor constitu­ents a viable source of fund­ing for candid­ates who would rather rely on community support than on a few big checks. This is the change so many New York­ers have been seek­ing for so long.

“Small donor public finan­cing is the best reform avail­able to coun­ter­act the anti­demo­cratic effects of Citizens United. Today New York is paving the way for the rest of the nation by activ­at­ing the bold­est version of the policy yet.

“At the same time, this budget falls short when it comes to crim­inal justice. By rolling back progress on bail reform and discov­ery prac­tices, the state missed an oppor­tun­ity to deliver on hard-fought reform.

“Small donor public finan­cing can start to change that dynamic by ampli­fy­ing the voices of all New York­ers in the polit­ical process. Now that the program has the funds it needs to launch, the state is a step closer to becom­ing the demo­cracy its people deserve.”

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