New York Governor Kathy Hochul and lawmakers were set to use the state’s $220 billion budget on Friday to make it easier for judges to incarcerate some people awaiting trial.
The Democratic-led Senate and House began voting Thursday and Friday on parts of the spending plan, which contains a slew of policy initiatives, including pay raises for health care and home care workers. , and the suspension of the state gasoline tax until December due to high fuel prices.
Lawmakers were expected to continue debating and voting on the budget bills late Friday and likely through Saturday. Hochul, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bills.
Some left-leaning Democratic lawmakers voted against parts of the spending plan and chastised Hochul for pushing a big grant to billionaire owners of the Buffalo Bills and trying to roll back bail reform: “We can’t legislate based on of reactionary scare tactics,” the state senator said. , said Julia Salazar.
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, a Republican, said Democrats’ change to the bail law would do nothing to tackle crime. “Don’t be fooled: this is a political facade to create the illusion of solving the problem,” he said.
Hochul said she doesn’t want to strike down a landmark 2019 bail law that removed remand incarceration for those charged with most nonviolent offenses. But she has faced pressure from Democrats and centrist Republicans who want legislative action in response to an increase in violent crime during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The budget released Friday would follow through on Hochul’s proposal to give judges more power to jail people who have been convicted repeatedly of petty theft or property damage crimes.
Judges are expected to release people if the court determines the alleged theft is “negligible” and not “part of other criminal activity”.
The budget bill does not include more sweeping measures proposed by Hochul: She proposed a dangerousness provision that would have placed the defendants in a “bail or jail category” while allowing judges to consider consider an accused’s criminal history and the potential for more harm.
Still, criminal justice advocates say the legislation will lead to more poor and minority New Yorkers being held behind bars awaiting trial.
“Bail in gun cases has actually increased over the past year, and so has so-called ‘repeat offenders,'” said Scott Levy, chief executive of the politics of the Bronx Defenders, a legal services organization. “Judges already have wide discretion to set bail in most cases where a person is re-arrested.”
New York is also set to add more gun possession crimes to the list of offenses that could land people who can’t afford bail behind bars.
In total, the changes could lead to about 4,500 additional people per year newly facing bail, jail or other consequences, according to Zoe Towns, vice president for criminal justice reform at FWD. us, an advocacy organization.
The budget deal would also expand Kendra’s Law, which gives the state the power to order mental health treatment for people perceived as a threat to themselves or others.
New York passed the law on a trial basis in 1999, when 32-year-old Kendra Webdale was pushed in front of a subway train by a man with untreated schizophrenia. The law is due to expire on June 30, but the budget would extend that expiry until 2027.
If the budget passes, courts could order people to undergo more assisted outpatient treatment if a doctor determines that their symptoms of mental illness have increased significantly and if those symptoms interfere with a major life activity.
This provision would apply to people who have completed court-ordered treatment within the past six months.
Harvey Rosenthal, CEO of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, said the bill’s language was far too broad and part of officials’ efforts to equate violence with mental illness.
“It’s a total violation of rights, and our lawyers are going to sue and I’m confident we’ll win,” he said.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report