Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

In a ten-point plan obtained by NY1 News, Gov. Kathy Hochul is calling for significant changes to criminal justice reforms championed — and passed — by the legislature over the last few years.

While Mayor Eric Adams has been calling for changes to these same laws, the legislature has staunchly resisted. And by issuing her plan, Hochul puts herself clearly in the mayor’s corner, setting up a showdown with legislative leaders as they work to finalize the state budget this month.

“The entire budget, and that includes public safety, will be dealt with between her and the legislature,” said Lieutenant Gov. Brian Benjamin. “I’ll be involved, I’ll be advising her, but we going to have that conversation privately. We are not going to negotiate this in the press.”

Hochul wants to add what’s known as a “dangerousness standard,” allowing judges to keep people whose crimes are bail-eligible instead incarcerated based on their threat level.

Under the Hochul plan judges would have new, specific criteria to determine who is bail eligible.

When the law first passed in 2019, it made some crimes bail eligible, while others were not. It was amended to include more crimes a year later. And while critics say judges aren’t following the law properly, others say it’s confusing and haphazard.

“So, what I’m proposing is not to change bail reform, but instead to enhance it, and to clarify the existing bail reform to say, you don’t understand it? This makes it very clear,” said Assemblymember Inez Dickens, a Democrat from Manhattan.

But advocates are urging legislative leaders, who feel passionately about the law, to hold the line and not make any changes.

“This is a repeat of 2020 and the Cuomo Administration’s tactic of very secretly and last-minute sneaking in very big policy decisions that affect thousands of lives, definitely mostly Black and brown people’s lives,” said Marie Ndiaye of the Decarceration Project.

Hochul also wants to see Kendra’s Law strengthened, which allows the state to force people with mental health issues into treatment. And the governor wants to see repeat offenders held and not released.

Republicans say these changes are long overdue.

“Our conference has been clear from the beginning, before it passed,” said Republican Senate Minority Leader Robb Ortt. “And we’ve been clear since it passed that these laws are dangerous, undermine public safety, and have done nothing to make anyone safer. And they’ve actually crated more victims in New York City and across the State of New York.”

In a statement, Mayor Adams said, “The governor’s proposal includes significant steps, which I have advocated for, that would make New York safer, while not undoing important reforms. It is a big step forward that these proposals are being discussed at the highest level in Albany.”

The legislative leaders declined to comment. But a legislative source said they can maybe work with the governor on Kendra’s law and repeat offenders, but some of her other proposed changes are a non-starter.

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