Poll: New York's "bail reform" law needs to go

Poll: New York's "bail reform" law needs to go
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

In 2019, just before the pandemic broke out, New York State passed its version of “bail reform,” making it much harder (and in many cases impossible) for judges to impose cash bail on suspects while awaiting trial. Those rules applied even when dealing with repeat offenders and known associates of the gangs. This was done in a nod to the “empty the jails” advocates who claimed that bail requirements were disproportionately affecting minority suspects. The results have been plain for all to see and a backlash against the new law began showing up during the 2021 elections. Candidates who ran almost exclusively on a promise to overturn bail reform ran up a “red wave” on Long Island and a few other locations, ousting Democrats who had controlled local DA positions and other offices for a decade or more. Now the midterms are approaching and far more seats will be up for grabs. So a new poll out from Sienna should have any remaining bail reform supporters quite nervous. New Yorkers are done with bail reform in a big way and the numbers aren’t even close. (NY Post)

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An overwhelming majority of New Yorkers say the no-cash bail law has contributed to the spike in crime and should be overhauled, according to a study released Monday.

A total of 56 percent of voters in the Empire State believe the 2019 bail reform has been bad for New York compared to 30 percent who said it was good policy, the Siena College survey found.

Nearly two-thirds of voters — 64 percent — think the law has resulted in an increase in crime, compared to 24 percent who said it hasn’t.

On the question of whether or not bail reform has been good or bad for New York, 56% said bad. That may not sound like a huge majority until you see that only 30% said it has been good. Others either had no opinion or thought it had been neither good nor bad.

Similarly, the question of whether or not these “reforms” have led to an increase in crime came in at 64%. Just 24% thought that it hadn’t.

Some of the other questions were a bit more nuanced and the data looks even worse for bail reform advocates. The survey asked if judges should be given more leeway in terms of requiring cash bail based on the severity of the suspect’s alleged crime. 82% said that the judges should have that discretion. When was the last time you could get more than 80% of New Yorkers to agree on anything?

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Some people still seem to have their fingers in their ears, however. The state Senate Majority Leader told Politico that she believes this is all some sort of national, conservative plot to “tie progressives to crime rates” and that this is all just politics.

“I believe this is a nationally coordinated campaign, quite honestly, about linking crime to progressives, and linking crime to people in power,” said state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), whose conference is resisting pressure to revise the bail laws.

“I don’t subscribe to that, but I understand that is politics.”

Both Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have submitted proposals that would make more crimes eligible for cash bail as they used to be and to give judges more discretion in both setting bail and sentencing. But the Speaker of the Assembly and the state Senate Majority Leader (both Democrats) are pushing back. They were big supporters of the bail reform law originally. Did they pay any attention to what happened on Long Island last November? If they’re not careful, a red tsunami may wind up washing much further up the Hudson Valley than any of them seem to believe is possible.

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Beege Welborn 4:41 PM on September 28, 2023
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