“Bail Reform” & Carceral Control: A Critique of New York’s New Bail Laws

Click here to read all posts in our Money Bail series, including the introductory post presenting an LPE perspective on pretrial detention.

Survived & Punished NY—

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Criminal punishment system reforms and reformers have gained traction in jurisdictions across the United States. At the same time, movements for prison-industrial complex (PIC) abolition have grown in size and visibility. New York State has experienced both of these trends. While New York officials have passed bail, sentencing, discovery, and other reforms at both state and city levels, various abolitionist collectives have begun targeting New York politicians to demand more structural change.

We are members of Survived & Punished NY, a grassroots, prison abolitionist organization dedicated to ending the criminalization of survivors of gender-based violence. Here, we present an abolitionist critique of New York’s recent bail reform statute, and call for a bolder vision of freedom and a broader scope of change. Legitimating pretrial incarceration and supervision, the bail reform statute is an example of a “reformist” reform that entrenches and will likely spawn new manifestations of the PIC.

Passed on April 1, 2019, the legislative bail reform package took effect in January 2020. Its stated purpose is to eliminate money bail and traditional jailing for many people charged with, but not convicted of, a crime. Under the New York legislative bail reform package, fewer people should be sent to jail pretrial. However, even if implemented to its fullest extent, the bail reform is not genuinely transformative because it divides people into categories of deserving/not deserving, it allows for growth in other forms of carceral control aside from traditional jailing, and, ultimately, it does not challenge the premise of pretrial incarceration. Continue reading