New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's public responses to questions surrounding the state's bail laws can be boiled down to two key concerns: Judges and district attorneys need to read and implement the changes that are in effect, and ending cash bail requirements for numerous criminal charges is not the sole reason behind crime.
Hochul on Wednesday was responding to a renewed round of calls from New York City Mayor Eric Adams to make changes to the bail requirements in Albany through a special sesson of the Legislature.
Adams' push comes as Hochul is running for a full term this year, facing Republican nominee Lee Zeldin, a Long Island congressman who has vowed to back a repeal of the bail law.
At a separate news conference on crime statistics, Adams insisted he was not allies with Zeldin on public safety, pointing to the Republican's votes opposing stricter gun laws, adding he and the governor are aligned on public safety policy.
But Hochul is pointing to her own recent record of addressing the issue at the Capitol as part of a broader state budget deal in April. The budget package included an expansion of criminal charges that would be bail eligible as well as allowed judges to consider repeat offenses before remanding a defendant.
"What we gave judges was the ability to consider severity of the offense, is this a repeat offense, is there a history involved here?" Hochul said. "We have now spelled out for judges factors to consider whether this person should be back on the street or not."
Hochul expressed frustation with the politics swirling around the issue.
"I encourage everybody in the entire ecosystem of public safety including our judges and district attorneys to review the bail laws that were enacted in the budget, they went into effect May," she said.
New York lawmakers in 2019 moved to end cash bail requirements for many criminal charges, part of a series of changes to the criminal justice system meant to keep people from waiting long periods of time in jail before trial. But a rise in violent crime in New York state as well as around the country amid the COVID pandemic has led to periodic efforts to make alterations to the law.
Concerns over crime and public safety have the potential to be electorally potent this November, with polls showing voters ranking the issue as a top one for them this year.
Hochul disputed the idea the rise in crime is linked solely to the bail law, pointing to the spread of illegal guns in New York and a multi-state effort to crackdown on the problem.
"I want people to look at the body of what had been done, start implementing based on that," she said, "but also realize that's not the only reason why we have crime out there."