Lee Heidhues 3.27.2022
The assault on criminal justice reform continues unabated. Now it’s New York with a new Conservative Governor and a former cop now sitting in Gracie Mansion in New York City.
Whether it be through the attempted Recall of Progressive District Attorneys or at one time Progressive legislators caving into the law and order chants. A fearful public is pushing to dismantle hard won reforms.
Reforms and reformers are in danger of being swept away in the current environment of paranoia and trusting law enforcement to solve society’s ills.
Progressives and reformers need to stay strong and think of George Floyd and countless other black people who lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement and not be swept up in this time of fear.
Excerpted from The Nation 3.27.2022
The Kathy Hochul honeymoon is coming to an end. It’s New York, after all, and few politicians glide above scrutiny or avoid agita. For many months, it was good enough for Hochul to be not-Cuomo; smiling and shaking hands, taking everyone’s phone calls, and offering encouraging words.
In Hochul’s calculus, pivoting right on criminal justice could help bolster her numbers in the suburbs and upstate for a primary and general election. She should remember, though, that Democrats in the state legislature were able to perform well in 2020 as the GOP demagogued around bail reform. Republicans will trot out the same playbook under more favorable circumstances and hope a red wave washes more of them into power.
Hochul was a conservative Democratic representative and eventual Andrew Cuomo ally who shifted left with her party as she rose to power.
But Hochul, in an apparent alliance with Eric Adams, the pugnacious new mayor of New York City, has made her first decisive move against progressives in Albany. Last week, the New York Post leaked news that the governor is seeking to significantly weaken the state’s bail and criminal justice laws in her proposed $216 billion budget, which is due at the beginning of April.
In particular, Hochul wants to give judges far more discretion to order cash bail, dealing a blow to a law many reformers championed in 2019, when Democrats in the state legislature dramatically limited the cases in which money could be used to keep defendants in jail. Hochul also wants to try minors accused of gun possession in criminal court, which would undo another reform passed several years ago.
Progressives and socialists in the state legislature immediately denounced Hochul’s proposals and vowed to vote against the budget if they were ultimately included in the final version.
Both legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, shot down Adams, a former police captain, when he made a pilgrimage to Albany recently to ask state lawmakers to roll back these criminal justice reforms. Without much evidence, Adams has blamed changes to New York’s bail laws and the age of criminal responsibility for the spike in gun violence that has come during the pandemic. Hochul has been more muted, but she made it clear in her budget proposal that she is siding with Adams and a raft of fearmongering conservatives.
What makes the fight over bail so galling, though, is how fact-free it remains. The rise in violent crime, beginning in 2020, is a serious matter, and one progressives must reckon with and not hand-wave away.
A recent analysis from the city comptroller’s office showed that a change to bail laws isn’t driving the crime spike. Pretrial rearrest rates remained nearly identical before and after bail reform, according to the analysis.
For the institutional left, the coming weeks will be incredibly important. Hochul, who has raised more than $20 million, has many powerful interests in her ear telling her to take the fight to progressives in the name of winning elections.