New Report: Bail Reform Unleashed a Crime Wave in New York

Study finds that New York Bail Reform Unleashed a Crime Wave in New York: The Victims of the Reforms Were Overwhelmingly African-American and Hispanic

The Manhattan Institute recently issued a report that takes to task those who argue that New York Bail Reform worked.  As bail reform continued to fail in New York, proponents of the law no longer argue it worked, and have now pivoted to argue that instead the bail reforms simply did not increase crime, while minimizing the cost to historically oppressed communities.

The new report makes abundantly clear one key an inescapable fact: bail reform increased crime and those who bore the brunt of that are victims that are increasingly African-American and Hispanic American.

While African-American and Hispanic Americans only make up 48% of New York City’s population, unfortunately, they are disproportionately the victims of crime brought on by bail reform, which also then increased as a result of bail reform, as demonstrated below.

The combination of African-American and Hispanic Americans in New York City represent 90.7% of homicide victims, 96.9% of shooting victims, 73.2% of rape victims, and 79.8% of robbery victims to name a few.  Even in misdemeanors, such victims disproportionately bear the brunt of these progressive criminal justice reform policies.

Let there be no doubt that the bail reforms in New York increased crime, reversing half of 27 years of crime reductions in just 2 years…

“For 27 years, from 1993 to early 2020, under the ‘old’ bail laws and the ‘broken’ criminal justice system, index crime in New York City steadily declined by nearly 76%. In just two years of the new bail laws and other progressive reforms, index crimes in New York City rose 36.6%. There are many reasons for the rise in crime, but as the analysis below will demonstrate, it is not coincidental that the sudden, massive increase in city crime came at precisely the same time as the release of 2,000 career criminals from city jails.”

Of course, proponents of bail reform like to toss statistics out from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, claiming that only 2% of defendants released on bail reform commit new crimes.  The Institute, which debunked these claims, pointed out that, “Misrepresenting crime data doesn’t make New Yorkers any safer.”  The real numbers, according to the analysis by the Institute, is that the new crime rate driven by bail reform was actually 20%, or one in five.  The proponent numbers were caused by the fact that their study “ignores the nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors committed by people on bail, as if those crimes are meaningless in the lives of everyday New Yorkers.”

Also debunking the Comptrollers study, the Institute wrote, “In reality, the number of violent felonies committed by people out on bail each month went from 227 in 2019 to 297 in 2022, an increase of over 30%.”

So, while the “NYC movement to ‘end cash bail’ was designed to end ‘mass incarceration’ in a city that had one of the lowest incarceration rates of any major city in America,” instead the end result of the bail reform law was a significant uptick in crime, including for example an 83% increase in shootings since the law took effect in 2019.

At the end of the day, it isn’t the Senators in Albany, Hizzoner former Mayor Mr. DeBlasio, or anyone else in high office that will face the brunt of this crime wave: it is the historically oppressed classes in New York that we want to lift from poverty and provide opportunity.  Instead, those communities, as the analysis points out, “measures of public safety” for African Americans have declined in New York City.  “For instance, the proportion of murder and non-negligent manslaughter victims in NYC who are [African-American] increased from 56.6% in 2019 to 65% in 2020 and 67% in 2021.”

Hopefully state legislators and local officials will begin to get the message and realize that we need to let judges be judges and set the appropriate bails and conditions of release without legislative interference.  The Institute wrote: “To say that a judge can never set bail on, or remand, a commercial burglary defendant with a prior felony conviction and 13 prior misdemeanor convictions, or a shoplifting defendant with 30 prior misdemeanor convictions, or a defendant with three prior felony assault convictions now charged with misdemeanor assault is entirely illogical (as we have seen, those examples are not unlikely exaggerations). There are simply too many permutations to expect the state legislature to cover them all. The legislature must enact prudent, sensible bail reform that allows judges the flexibility to tailor the proper pretrial conditions that serve the public’s interest as well as the defendant’s.”

As Fred LeBrun recently wrote in the Albany Times-Union, the New York Legislature “took discretion away from judges to interpret those intentions within the reality that courts face every day. Legislators have in effect themselves become de facto judges, and they are not good at it."

It comes as no surprise that things have gotten so bad on bail reform there is talk of a special session before the election to further expand judicial discretion.  Let's hope the third time is the charm.

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