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Timeline: How New York's bail reform law came to be

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A conversation on bail reform: Today on CBS News New York 02:26

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Until April 2019, bail laws in New York State had not been overhauled since 1971. 

Despite all defendants being presumed innocent before being proven guilty, nearly 70% of the average 24,000 people in jails on a given day across the state in 2018 were being held pre-trial and had not been convicted of a crime. 

It lead to the mass incarceration of mainly Black, brown and low income people who could not make bail. The result was the destabilization of countless lives, exposure to violence, especially on Rikers Island, and the increased likelihood of resolving cases by taking plea deals in return for freedom or shorter sentences. 

The bail reform law aimed to address the disparities, but received strong pushback from its inception. It was implemented on January 1, 2020 -- just months before the COVID pandemic created a state of emergency. 

By the summer, violent crimes increased in New York City as law enforcement, politicians and critics linked the spikes to bail reform laws. However, researchers and criminologists have yet to definitively make the correlation.


June 2015

Withered flowers lie beside the grave of Kalief Browder in October 2019 in Hackensack, New Jersey.  Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Kalief Browder takes his life after returning home from Rikers Island, an experience his parents said was "tantamount to torture," adding Browder was subjected to physical and mental abuse. Browder was held as a teenager for three years pre-trial after being unable to post a $3,000 bail after being accused of stealing a backpack. His robbery charges were later dropped because of a lack of evidence. Browder became the example of the impact of a cash bail system, spurring outrage and mounting pressure for reforms.

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

January 3, 2018

During Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address, he calls for criminal justice reforms, saying:

"Let's be painfully honest: The truth is that our Lady Justice is still not colorblind and her scales are still not balanced. Our bail system is biased against the poor, too many jails are cruel and inhumane, and our court system is too slow."

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

November 2018

Democrats win control of the State Senate for only the third time in 50 years, creating a super majority in the legislature and governor's mansion, clearing the way for more progressive policies to be passed.  

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

April 1, 2019

The New York State Legislature passes bail reform laws eliminating money bail and pre-trial detention in nearly all misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases. It made supervised release more widely available despite a defendant's criminal history. It requires judges to consider a defendant's financial means when setting bail and not pose an undue hardship. Judges also have to allow more forms of bail payment.

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

December 1, 2019

The supervised release program is expanded in anticipation of the implementation of bail reform. It allows judges to mandate supportive programing while working to ensure defendants released pre-trial return to court. 

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

December 2019

Overall crime reaches record lows in New York City, despite murder and shooting incidents increasing from 2018. The improvement is attributed to more effective NYPD strategies. 

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

January 1, 2020

Bail reform goes into effect. New York joins New Jersey, Chicago, Philadelphia and other jurisdictions to implement sweeping changes to bail laws.

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

March 7, 2020

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference on the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in New York on March 2, 2020 in New York City.  David Dee Delgado / Getty Images

Gov. Cuomo declares a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic. New York City quickly becomes the epicenter of the virus. Court hearings became virtual and jury trials were cancelled, causing a delay in the adjudication of cases. COVID created a hardship for law enforcement, as departments were hit hard with sickness, stretching their resources thin. 

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

April 3, 2020

Bail reform amendments pass after the initial statute received widespread criticism. It expanded the list of bail-eligible offenses, especially in regards to non-violent felonies. It allowed judges to impose more conditions on pre-trial release, including treatment, maintaining employment and continuing education. It also added reporting provisions to chart outcomes.  

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

July 2, 2020

Bail reform changes take effect.  

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

2020 Overview

Starting in the summer, there was an overall spike in crime, mirroring trends seen in cities across the nation. The year ended with a 97% increase in shootings, a 44% increase in murders, 42% increase in burglaries and 67% increase in car thefts in the city. The NYPD made arrests in 32% of shooting incidents.  

Judges began setting bail more often in cases where they still had discretion when compared to the previous year. While politicians, law enforcement and others linked the spike to bail reform, researchers and criminologists say the data doesn't make the correlation. 

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

January 2, 2021

The city jail population exceeds 5,000 for the first time since March 2020 and continues to increase. During the height of the pandemic in 2020, the population on Rikers Island reached 3,809, as temporary orders allowed for the release of some detainees as the virus spread rapidly.  

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

November 2021

The Democratic Suffolk and Nassau County district attorneys were upset, as GOP candidates campaigning against bail reform on Long Island unseated incumbents in what was described as a "red wave."

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

February 9, 2022

During a contentious hearing with state lawmakers, Mayor Eric Adams demanded changes to bail reform laws. Specifically, he wants people arrested on gun charges to be held without bail. He also wants judges to consider a defendant to reoffend during arraignments. 

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

March 16, 2022

Long Island lawmakers push to add arson to the list of bail-eligible offenses.  

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas

March 17, 2022

Gov. Hochul lays out plan to reform bail laws 03:23

Gov. Kathy Hochul's 10-point plan for public safety, being negotiated privately with lawmakers, would give judges more discretion to detain criminal defendants out on bail, make repeat offenders subject to arrest and bail eligible. It would also make gun related offenses bail eligible.  

By Aundrea Cline-Thomas
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