Potential adjustments could be made to the state’s newly enacted bail law changes, which end requiring cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felony charges, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said in New York City.
His comments further cracked open the door to potential changes to the measures, which took effect at the start of the year and have been criticized by local law enforcement officials, prosecutors and Republicans.
“Changing the system is complicated, and then has a number of ramifications,” he said. “There’s no doubt this is still a work in progress and there are other changes that have to be made.”
Complicating matters has been a spate of hate crimes targeting the Jewish community in recent weeks in New York, while critics of the measure have pointed to the law releasing people accused of offenses like robbery, manslaughter and other crimes.
Cuomo speaking with the Association for a Better New York praised the changes, calling them necessary.
“Bail is predicated on wealth,” he said. “So if you have access to wealth, you make bail. If you don’t have access to wealth, you don’t make bail. That’s not justice. Justice isn’t supposed to be who has money in their pockets.”
But at the same time, he raised the possibility of changing the new law.
“We’re going to work on it, because there are consequences that we have to adjust for,” he said.
One possible change could include providing more discretion to judges in determining whether a person is too dangerous to be released, though Cuomo did not go into specifics.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature and Cuomo agreed to the changes, which also backed measures to expedite the evidence discovery process.
The laws were intended to decrease a backlog of people in jail awaiting trial. Almost immediately after the legislative session ended, local officials raised concerns with the lack of funding attached to the measures, especially for pre-trial services and processing evidence on a faster basis.
“The bail laws just went into effect a couple of days ago,” Cuomo said. “Bail reform is right. You have a criminal justice system that says if you’re arrested, if you can make bail you’re released, if you can’t make bail, you sit in Rikers for two years and get abused until you have your day in court.”