Public safety and criminal justice reform do not stand in contrast, they compliment each other. After police shootings, calls to 911 go down. Trust in the state to protect us safely and equitably is vital to public safety itself. Eliminating solitary confinement, making jails safer and reducing sentences are not just humane, they make society safer. I am proud of the criminal justice reforms we have accomplished but there is so much more to do to deliver a racially just criminal justice system that enhances public safety.
What We’ve Accomplished
In 2019, we passed a historic bail reform law that vastly reduced the crimes for which cash bail could be set. We reformed criminal discovery laws, allowing defendants to know what evidence would be used against them early in the process. In 2020, we repealed the law that shielded police misconduct records from public view. And in 2021, we legalized marijuana sales in New York and are devoting revenues to historically harmed communities. We funded $198 million in community-based anti-violence programs. And then we passed the HALT Solitary Act. We have done so much and we have so much more to do.
Where We Need to Go
We have so far to go. Massive racial disparities exist in our criminal justice system, starting at young ages. New Yorkers are overpoliced and underprotected: while thousands and thousands of nonviolent misdemeanors are pushed through the system every year, shootings and sexual assaults are solved and prosecuted at abysmal levels.
We must pass legislation that removes qualified immunity at the State level and require officers to insure themselves, just like doctors and lawyers. We must ensure people in prison are provided with confidential phone calls. We must create a conviction integrity unit at the Attorney General’s office. We must undo the rollbacks to our bail reform legislation and continue to reduce pretrial populations in local jails. And we must continue to think of ways to remove criminalization from our daily lives, such as by removing police from traffic enforcement. We must also think about how to make public safety a true focus in a way that is just.