NYC Public Defenders Release 2024 Statewide Criminal Legal System Legislative Priorities

The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, New York County Defender Services, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and Queens Defenders released their 2024 New York State legislative priorities today, calling on Albany to pass critical criminal justice reforms and begin to rectify the harm being caused by the harsh, unfair and deeply racially disparate criminal legal system.

The measures include continued funding for public defender offices statewide to assist with discovery obligations and staffing needs; passage off HESC/DALF expansion legislation to increase student loan assistance for lawyers serving the public interest; and the Treatment Not Jail Act, which would dramatically expand pre-trial diversion for people with mental health or substance use concerns.

The defender offices also called on Albany to cease any further dangerous rollbacks to bail laws that have contributed to an increased pre-trial detention population that disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx New Yorkers and those who cannot afford the amount of cash bail imposed on their freedom.

Additional legislative priorities include the Second Look Act which allows judges to review and reconsider excessive sentences; the Jury of Our Peers Act to repeal New York’s lifetime categorical ban on people with felony convictions from serving on juries; the Challenging Wrongful Convictions Act to ensure that wrongfully convicted New Yorkers have a pathway to exoneration; the #Right2RemainSilent legislation to ensure that all youth under the age of 18 have access to an attorney prior to a police interrogation; the No Slavery in NY Act to abolish the prison labor exception that allows for modern-day slavery for people incarcerated in New York’s prisons and jails; the Youth Justice & Opportunities Act to expand alternatives to incarceration and record sealing for adolescents and young adults; and an increase in funding for community-based treatment programs and violence intervention programs to enhance community safety.

“The criminal legal system inflicts a myriad of harms on New Yorkers from the trauma of arrest and incarceration to lasting barriers to housing, education and employment that punish people throughout their lives,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services. “While Albany has made progress to address these harms, much more must be done— from breaking down these barriers for young people with the Youth Justice & Opportunities Act to ending mandatory minimum sentencing and predatory court fees. As the new session begins, we urge the legislature and governor to embrace these proposals, ensure public defense is fully funded, and prioritize community-based resources over incarceration.”

Read the full press release here.

Read the full list of priorities here.

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