Statement from #FREEnewyork on the 2019 New York State Legislative Session

STATEMENT — FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 21, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 21, 2019

Contact:

Monica Novoa, monica@justleadershipusa.org, 917-971-0329

Loretta Kane, Loretta@caminopr.com, 202-365-3806

Statement from #FREEnewyork on the

2019 New York State Legislative Session

In the 2019 New York State legislative session, the #FREEnewyork campaign – a statewide grassroots coalition of over 150 organizations – achieved key legislation to decarcerate jails and overhaul the pretrial system. Our wins are due to the relentless organizing of directly impacted people who have rejected the status quo and declared business as usual to be over in Albany. As part of a statewide and national movement for justice, we ensured the passage of:

  • Bail legislation that will eliminate money bail and guarantee pretrial liberty for nearly all misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges;
  • Discovery reform legislation that will lift the blindfold and require that prosecutors turn over all evidence 15 days after arraignment and prior to any plea deal;
  • Speedy trial legislation that addresses some of the loopholes that allow prosecutors and courts to violate our constitutional right to a speedy trial;
  • Appointment of five new parole commissioners from diversified backgrounds, filling a previously understaffed Parole Board and the rejection of a punitive-minded commissioner nominee who would have perpetuated systems of endless punishment.

While we are proud that the legislative session closed today with significant wins for the movement for decarceration, Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature failed to take action on critical reforms to end mass incarceration, including: eliminating money bail and protecting pretrial freedom for all people, ending state-sanctioned torture or even bringing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act for a vote, passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act to legalize marijuana, create an equitable industry and reinvest in the communities most harmed by the war on drugs or passing critical police accountability and transparency legislation like the STAT Act and repeal of 50a. Many legislators in Albany have referenced “criminal justice fatigue” as a reason why these vital proposals did not pass – yet our communities have suffered “injustice fatigue” for decades. We are undeterred. Working class New Yorkers, people experiencing poverty, Black people, and people of color, including immigrants – are energized to keep the fight going. We know that we can win.

#FREEnewyork campaign will continue to fight for:

  • Bail Legislation that ends money bail and protects pretrial liberty and due process for all New Yorkers regardless of charge, protects against mass community surveillance and electronic monitoring, ensures speedy trial release protections, and requires that pretrial data be collected and made public;
  • True Speedy Trial Legislation that protects our constitutional right to a speedy trial by guaranteeing specific timeframes by which we are entitled to our day in court.

The #FREEnewyork campaign was built and led by people and communities directly impacted by mass incarceration, grassroots organizations, criminal justice reform and legal advocates, faith leaders and anti-violence groups from across the state.  We are clear that implementation – and the actual on-the-ground outcomes from legislation – is just as important as the changes to the law.

In the implementation of the newly passed pretrial laws, we will fight to:

  • Free our people – maximizing decarceration and pretrial liberty;
  • Ensure that the vast majority of people are released without conditions – minimizing net-widening;
  • Build community power – creating systems for public accountability and demanding that governments divest from the criminal legal system – including courts, police, prosecutors, probation – and invest in the community resources – such as housing, healthcare, education – that truly keep our communities safe.

#FREEnewyork has built enormous grassroots power statewide – and our communities will continue to speak out in Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Cortland, Hempstead, Kingston, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers, and beyond. As directly impacted people leading this campaign, we will be relentless in organizing, public education, legislative and policy advocacy. This is how we will ensure that we truly #FREEnewyork.

Individual organizations said the following:

“We are proud of the historic pretrial reforms passed this legislative session due to the relentless advocacy and leadership of people harmed by New York’s jail crisis, said DeAnna Hoskins, President and CEO, JustLeadershipUSA. “The #FREEnewyork campaign set out to bring people home and to protect due process and our constitutional right to a speedy trial and to be treated as innocent unless proven guilty. Based on these principles, JustLeadershipUSA believes that the newly passed bail legislation which guarantees pretrial freedom for people charged with misdemeanors and some felonies is a major achievement – but we set out to eliminate bail for all people and all charges and we will not stop fighting until ALL our #FREEnewyork demands are met.”

“Our movement won powerful victories this legislative session – from pretrial reforms to the appointment of 5 new parole board commissioners committed to restoration and second chances,” said Stanley Fritz, Campaigns Manager, Citizen Action of New York. “We also saw the Governor and Legislature fail to act on critical issues like marijuana legalization, solitary confinement, and police accountability. The fight to end mass incarceration and state violence means a commitment to dismantling this country’s long history of systemic racism and oppression. It takes courage and bold action. We know because we, and our communities, live it every day. Our work will not end until the system that has murdered, caged, and subjugated our people is completely dismantled.”

“The pretrial reforms that the legislature passed this year represent a significant leap towards ending senseless pretrial jailing and delivering the pretrial justice New Yorkers want and deserve,” said Rena Karefa-Johnson, New York Director, Criminal Justice Reform, FWD.us. “Thousands of people will be spared the dehumanization and destabilization of incarceration and that is something to celebrate. But the fight continues to protect the presumption of innocence and end wealth-based detention for all New Yorkers, even those charged with more serious crimes. We look forward to working with the #FREEnewyork campaign and our legislative champions to end money bail entirely and set a national model for what pretrial justice can look like.”

“We are proud to have been a part of the incredible work pushed forward by the #FREEnewyork campaign,” said Peter Goldberg, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. “Led by directly impacted individuals, community-based organizations, and legal service providers, important legislative victories were achieved this year that will lessen the harms wrought by our criminal legal system. But our work must continue. Specifically, the bail legislation passed this year does not end wealth-based detention, nor does it guarantee meaningful due process or the presumption of innocence. We must continue to fight until we’ve completely abolished the cash bail system and the pretrial imprisonment of presumptively innocent New Yorkers.”

“This legislative session has shown what we can accomplish when legal advocates, grassroots organization, and people directly impacted by our unjust system join forces for the common good. We’re honored to be part of #FREEnewyork and could not have accomplished the historic reforms to our pretrial system, or the repeal of the gravity knife ban, or the sentencing reform that would save our immigrant communities from deportation without the steadfast resolve of our coalition partners. We have fought, and will continue to fight to HALT solitary confinement, to repeal civil rights law 50-a, and to legalize marijuana. We are just getting started” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at the Legal Aid Society.

“After passing critical bail reforms earlier this year, lawmakers also stopped short of passing a Bail Data Bill in the final hours of session that would require counties to report on their practices, said Nicole Triplett, Policy Counsel, New York Civil Liberties Union. “These kinds of data are crucial to assess the impact of reforms and bring transparency to the criminal legal system. Lawmakers also failed to end prolonged isolation in prison and jails as negotiations around The Halt Act fizzled out, continuing to subject New Yorkers who are currently incarcerated to additional psychological and physical harm. The struggle for equality and fight against injustice certainly continues. The NYCLU reminded our supporters repeatedly throughout this session that our fight is far from finished. With our partners and allies, we will continue to work with and push lawmakers to deliver on the promise of justice, even as we celebrate the progress made.”