Progressive organizations and criminal justice advocacy groups are moving to counteract a push in Albany to make changes to New York's recent package of changes to the state's bail and evidence discovery laws, as well as how juveniles are treated in the court system.
The latest efforts comes from more than 70 national and state organizations pushing back against proposed changes. Backers of the effort range from Jay-Z to the Center for American Progress, ACLU, Indivisible, the Working Families Party, National Domestic Workers Alliance and MoveOn.
Republians, meanwhile, continued to call for judges to be allowed to determine whether a defendant is too dangerous to be released following a criminal charge.
Gov. Kathy Hochul this week laid out a series of proposals to make changes to New York's law that ended cash bail requirements for many criminal charges, proposing to add gun crimes as well as violent felony charges to offenses in which bail could be set by a judge. At the same time, she wants to address bail issues for people who are facing multiple criminal cases.
Hochul has also privately sought further changes, such as expanding a law that requires people in a mental health crisis to receive treatment.
The governor has signaled to lawmakers she wants the changes made in the state budget, due at the end of the month.
But making the changes to the law have been met with fierce resistance from the advocacy organizations that backed the initial overhauls made in recent years as a way of reducing racial and economic inequities in the criminal justice system.
"We are civil rights, criminal justice reform, democracy, and philanthropic leaders and organizations that have long supported policies that advance a more safe and just New York," the groups wrote in the letter to be released on Thursday. "We are very troubled by recent proposals from Gov. Kathy Hochul that would increase incarceration and racial disparities and undo years of work towards ending the criminalization of poverty and children."
Calls for making changes are being driven by a rise in crime across the country and in New York state. But the coalition in the letter urged lawmakers to not act rashly.
"As state lawmakers take on the challenges of keeping New Yorkers safe during this incredibly turbulent time, they must follow the evidence about what actually works to scale safety," they wrote in the letter. "Mental health, reentry, violence prevention, and housing - these are the investments that will make New York safe. We must be smart and reject the impulse to act for action’s sake."
The letter is the latest effort by progressives to curtail any efforts at making changes. The group FWD.us this week began airing TV ads opposing changes.
A final budget agreement could include a package of criminal justice and public safety-related issues, including more money for discovery law changes that prosecutors have struggled to implement.
And Hochul's plans has its supporters. Democratic elected officials on the local level, including Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, backed the proposal.
More than a dozen members of the clergy in New York, too, released a statement in support, calling it a "much-needed conversation" from the governor.
“For those of us who have spent our days, nights, weeks, and months consoling families and grieving with congregations, the conversation about public safety isn’t abstract for us; it’s about the children we’ve buried in the ground and a scourge tearing through our communities on the heels of a pandemic that robbed us of so many of our friends and neighbors," they said.
Meanwhile, organizations that represent Asian Americans in New York threw their support behind Hochul's proposals as well.
"We support bail reform. We support common-sense reform. We support your 10 Point Plan," the leaders wrote of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association in a letter to Hochul. "We need to give judges the tools to carefully consider whether an individual is a threat to public safety based on specific criteria, not an arbitrary assessment, and should have to post bail."
Top Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly have not closed the door entirely on making changes, but have insisted they will not support broad rollbacks of the bail law.
"We're just really trying to get the different points. I think the general sense is nobody in our conference wants to go backwards, absolutely not," Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Thursday said. "But I've always said about the conference we're always trying to make sure what we do hits the mark. We're not a one-and-done conference. We're always willing to listen to ideas."
Republican Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt at a news conference with GOP lawmakers and the party's preferred candidate for governor Rep. Lee Zeldin, knocked the efforts to make changes as not going far enough.
"They're going to claim some victory," Ortt said of Democratic officials. "They're going to claim they did something. They will have done nothing, I promise you they will have done nothing."