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Gov. Hochul unveils deal to strengthen New York bail law

Gov. Kathy Hochul makes a budget announcement in the Red Room of the Capitol. Photo courtesy Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul makes a budget announcement in the Red Room of the Capitol. Photo courtesy Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

April 8 (UPI) -- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced a deal with lawmakers to strengthen the state's bail laws amid rising crime.

The deal, which was announced Thursday, came as part of the governor's $220 billion state budget which also sped up licensing for three new casinos planned for the New York City area and the return of pandemic-era takeout alcoholic drinks.

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Lawmakers have agreed to revise controversial bail reform laws passed in 2019 that largely took away judicial discretion in setting bail and limited the types of offenses eligible for bail. Those reforms have already been rolled back some since taking effect after bi-partisan opposition amid rising crime.

Hochul said in a press conference on Thursday that not allowing judicial discretion in setting bail has been "an issue" and now judges will be allowed to consider the defendant's history of gun use and whether the crime involved was a serious one.

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Judges will now also be allowed to again set bail for gun charges that previously required release and police will be allowed to arrest people for crimes that had previously required only a desk appearance ticket, which is an order to return to court without an arrest.

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"To the New Yorkers who are concerned about the rise in crime, we have put forth a comprehensive package that again achieves and continues the progress we've made in the past to make sure our criminal justice system is fair," Hochul said.

"And we are not moving backwards. We are moving forward with a thoughtful approach. We'll be protecting victims of domestic violence and hate crimes. We'll close loopholes and the discovery law that led to the unnecessary dismissal of too many cases."

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Hochul added that the state would be spending $224 million to fund gun violence protection programs and triple the state's gun violence intelligence resources.

The state will also extend Kendra's Law for five years, which allows courts to require that certain people accused of committing a crime seek mental health treatment. The deal has already faced some criticism from progressive lawmakers and criminal justice advocates that had pushed for the initial reforms.

A collection of public defender groups in New York City including the Legal Aid Society and Bronx Defenders released a statement calling Hochul's deal a "mass incarceration plan."

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"The Governor's decision to roll back bail reform, despite evidence proving its success, will inevitably put more Black and brown New Yorkers behind bars, separate countless families, and deepen systemic racism already embedded in the legal system. No New Yorker should lose their pretrial freedom because they cannot afford to pay bail," the statement reads.

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"Instead of putting forth solutions that would get to the heart of public safety for all New Yorkers, Governor Hochul's last-minute insertion of regressive policy into the State budget is simply a political move that plays into the hands of those who have embarked on a campaign of disinformation with undeniable racist overtones."

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