Over 100 Community, Advocacy Groups Across New York Reject the Basic Precepts of the No Money Bail Movement

Over 100 Community and Advocacy Groups Across New York State Reject the Basic Precepts of the No Money Bail Movement

New York, NY – In an unexpected and astonishing move, a letter sent on behalf of “Over 100 Community and Advocacy Groups Across New York State” to Governor Andrew Cuomo have rejected the central tenets of the no-money bail reform movement advocated by the Pretrial Justice Institute and others.

This came on the heels of a report today from the National Judicial College, which similarly concluded that 69% of all judges in America reject the so-called state-bankrupting no-money bail movement.

The letter to Governor Cuomo first makes clear that the one hundred plus community organizations do not support the expansion of using “black box” computer algorithms to decide justice when it comes to bail.

Using a computer program to predict risk in New York State is something the groups are alleging will increase pretrial detention and exacerbate racial disparities in criminal justice.”

We, the undersigned organizations, are united in the belief that: we do not have to add dangerousness to New York’s bail statute to reduce our pretrial detention population; the use of risk assessment instruments to predict dangerousness will further exacerbate racial bias in our criminal justice system; and the use of these instruments will likely lead to increases in pretrial detention across the state.

Bail reform advocates since the Federal Bail Reform Act of 1984 have continually incorrectly argued that we can use risk computers to predict risk, setting up a system that does not need money bail because we can lock up who is dangerous and set free those who pose no risk.

Speaking of 1984, the groups in their letter recognize that bail is about appearance, not implementing some complex social policy by labeling people as dangerous.  Of course, since the Federal Bail Reform Act was passed, states have allowed considerations of public safety to enter into the debate as to the purpose of bail, which is to guarantee appearance.  New York has continued as a state in the minority by not going in that direction – and these groups argue that New York should continue to steer clear of junk science.

The groups also say the current bail statutes already provide an avenue to shrink jail populations and look to recalibrate the use of monetary bail to appropriate cases – calling into question the need for a complete overhaul of New York’s bail system.

In addition, the letter cites forthcoming landmark research from George Mason University School of Law that completely de-bunks the general tenets of the risk-based pretrial system.  The soon-to-be published report notes that risk assessment tools have “had negligible effects” on the rates of release from jail or changes in the effectiveness of the bail system as measured by failures to appear or new crimes.

On a day when 69% of judges rejected the no-money bail system, when will these misguided activist groups admit that the no-money bail system will fail?

The report also notes that the goal should be to reduce the pretrial population, which is something with which we can agree.  We also agree with increasing individualized consideration as a good step in bail reform.

It is time to stop the bi-polar bail dialogue that is dividing this issue, like the bi-polar politics that infect our system.  We need to instead focus on real solutions.

– Jeff Clayton, Executive Director, American Bail Coalition

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