177 Livingston Street 7th Floor Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 254-0700 info@bds.org

News

BDS STATEMENT ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORMS INCLUDED IN THE ENACTED FY 2020 NYS BUDGET

Rally for Pre-Trial Justice Reform in the NYS Capitol

 

For Immediate Release…

Contact: Jared Chausow, jchausow@bds.org, 650.814.0565

BDS STATEMENT ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORMS INCLUDED IN THE ENACTED FY 2020 NYS BUDGET

(New York, NY) – Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services, released today the following statement on the Enacted FY 2020 New York State Budget:

“Brooklyn Defender Services applauds the New York State Assembly, Senate and Governor for the transformative criminal justice reforms included in the budget. As was expressed by the bill sponsors, Assemblymembers Joseph Lentol and Latrice Walker and Senators Jamaal Bailey and Michael Gianaris, during the momentous debates late last night, these reforms go a long way towards correcting the unfair system that currently exists, in which people languish in jail because they cannot afford bail, awaiting trial without access to police reports, witness statements, and other basic information needed to defend themselves. I also want to recognize the tremendous work of countless public defenders, advocates, and people impacted by the criminal justice system and their families.

With amendments to the bail, discovery, and speedy trial laws, most people who are arrested will be guaranteed release rather than incarceration and will have all the evidence and information related to their case. An important provision in these reforms requires police to provide appearance tickets as opposed to immediately incarcerating people charged with low-level offenses. Now, many more of our clients will never set foot in a jail cell, a vast departure from today’s reality. Given the devastating impact that even 24 hours in jail can have on a person, particularly a young person or someone with a health condition, this change exemplifies the profound improvements to justice in New York.

In addition to pre-trial justice reform, the budget includes crucial changes to misdemeanor sentences so they do not trigger automatic collateral consequences, ends the loss of driver’s licenses upon conviction of non-driving drug offenses, and adds protections against job and housing discrimination, all of which add an element of humanity to our criminal legal system that has long been lacking.

This is an auspicious moment that reflects the beginning of the end of mass incarceration in New York. Unfortunately, due to the hundreds of ways in which the criminal laws are overly harsh and used to target Black and Latinx people, there will be work to do in the future, such as legalization of marijuana; elimination of prolonged solitary confinement; repealing the bar on release of police misconduct records; ensuring fair and timely parole; expanding protections for young people who remain in the adult criminal justice system; and rolling back the thousands of consequences triggered by convictions like fair access to employment, education, housing and other necessities.

As we gear up to fight for these and other reforms, we must recognize the profound nature of this moment, in which we see a seismic shift in the way the criminal justice system will operate and what we expect it to accomplish. The attorneys, social workers, and other staff at BDS appreciate that these reforms will eliminate many of the obstacles that too often have prevented us from being able to secure fair and humane outcomes for the people we represent and their families. We thank the Legislature and the Governor for their leadership and very much look forward to ensuring these reforms reach their full potential impact.”

***

Brooklyn Defender Services is a public defense organization that provides multi-disciplinary and client-centered criminal, family, and immigration defense, as well as civil legal services, social work support and advocacy for over 30,000 clients in Brooklyn every year. More info is available at bds.org.