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human rights watch: 128 rights groups urge new york legislature to implement pretrial reforms

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128 Rights Groups Urge New York Legislature to Implement Pretrial Reforms

Reforms Bring Fairness and Transparency to NY Criminal Legal System


The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Speaker Carl E. Heastie
LOB 932
Albany, NY 12248
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
188 State Street Room 907, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247


Dear Governor Andrew Cuomo, Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea


We applaud you for your support of the historic pretrial reforms that passed last session. Because of the tireless work of directly impacted people, advocates, and lawmakers, new laws are slated to take effect on January 1st that will dramatically expand pretrial liberty and significantly reduce jail populations across the state, advancing safety and justice for all New Yorkers.

Despite the fact that a majority of New Yorkers and State elected officials support the new pretrial laws, prosecutors continue to engage in a coordinated strategy to subvert the pretrial reforms before they have even gone into effect by spreading fear and misinformation. The new bail, discovery and speedy trial laws were carefully and deliberately crafted over the course of years with input from all stakeholders to scale back our state’s pretrial jailing crisis, bring greater fairness and transparency to the system, save taxpayers millions of dollars, and enhance public safety.

Certain regressive law enforcement officials are threatening the success of these laws through targeted efforts to undermine the legislation that New Yorkers and our state legislature fought so hard to pass. Their opposition efforts and misinformation put New Yorkers at risk. As reported in City and State, District Attorneys Association of New York (DAASNY) members have been teaching prosecutors how to systematically maintain the status quo and ensure that legally innocent people await trial behind bars, instead of at home where they belong as the reforms intended.

The actions of DAASNY and certain individual prosecutors are indicative of their decadeslong opposition to reforms to the state’s criminal legal system—and their support for unfair laws that fueled mass incarceration and led to countless wrongful convictions. Now, they have even resorted to subverting laws enacted to improve a system that has done immeasurable harm to communities, in particular, Black and Latinx communities and families in poverty, across the state. Despite the fact that New York is safer than ever, law enforcement officials continue to stoke fears that bail reform will endanger the public by making outlandish claims that are not supported by evidence. Instead of trafficking in fear and doom, law enforcement officials should shift their efforts to fulfill the will of the people. Faithfully implementing bail reform will reduce unnecessary, unjust, and often harmful and traumatizing incarceration; lead to less recidivism; and create stronger, safer communities.

It is important to remember why we are in this moment: thousands of people across the state languish in jail simply because they are too poor to afford bail, forced to accept plea deals without even seeing the evidence in their cases. Many lose jobs, housing, and their children, and suffer lasting physical and psychological harm — even death — because of pretrial detention. These reforms are a crucial first step towards righting these wrongs.

On January 1, we ask you to stand with us as New Yorkers to ensure full and immediate implementation of these reforms.


A Little Piece of Light
Action Together Rochester
Allegany-Cattaraugus Legal Services, Inc.
Amawalk Meeting Religious Society of Friends
Amnesty International Brooklyn Local Group 27
AntiRacist Alliance
Appellate Advocates
Bend the Arc Jewish Action: New York
Black and Pink NYC
Brooklyn Community Bail Fund
Brooklyn Community Foundation
Brooklyn Defender Services
Brust-Maldonado Recovery Services
Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization
Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration
Center for Law and Justice
Chautauqua County Public Defenders Office
Children’s Defense Fund-NY
Citizen Action of New York
College & Community Fellowship
Color Of Change
Decarcerate Tompkins
Donna Robinson
Elias Foundation
Empire State Indivisible
End New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN)
First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn
Galaxy Gives
Genesee County Public Defender
Girls for Gender Equity
Harm Reduction Coalition
Hour Children
Human Rights Watch
Innocence Project
Interfaith Impact of NYS
Inwood Indivisible
Irvington Activists
Ithaca Prisoner Justice Network
James Litkett
Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club
JUST (Justice and Unity in the Southern Tier)
Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice
Kingston Midtown Rising, Inc.
Law Office of Ronald L. Kuby
Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo
Legal Aid Society NYC
Legal Aid Society of Nassau County
Legal Aid Society of Westchester Co
LIFE Progressive Services Group Inc
Livingston County Public Defender
Long Island Progressive Coalition
Lyndon Cudlitz: Consulting, Education & Training
Micah 6:8 Social Justice Adovocacy
Nazareth College Jail Project
Neighborhood Defender Service
New Hour
New Leaf Coalition
New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement
New York Communities for Change
New York County Defender Services
New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL)
New York State Prisoner Justice Network
New Yorkers United for Justice
NY Working Families Party
Open Buffalo
Parole Preparation Project
Prison Action Network
Prison Families Anonymous
Prison Writes
Rachel Timoner, Senior Rabbi, and the Dismantling Racism Team of Congregation Beth
Release Aging People in Prison Campaign
Resilience Coalition
Restorative Justice Community of Practitioners
Returning Citizens Society
Rikers Debate Project
Rise Up Kingston
Rising Ground, Inc.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Scientist Action and Advocacy Network
Second Chance Reentry, Inc.
Showing Up for Racial Justice NYC
Social Justice Action, Oratory Church of St. Boniface
Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement
Steuben County Public Defender’s Office
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
SURJ ROC (Showing Up for Racial Justice Rochester)
SURJ Westchester
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
The Bronx Defenders
The Bronx Freedom Fund
The Law Office of Moira Meltzer-Cohen
The Legal Aid Society of Westchester County
The Presbytery of New York City
Theatre of the Oppressed NYC
Timothy P. Donaher
Ulster Immigrant Defense Network
Ulster People for Justice & Democracy
United Christian Leadership Ministries
United Voices of Cortland
Uptown Progressive Action
Uri L’tzedek
Village Independent Democrats
Wayne County Public Defender
WESPAC Foundation
Westchester Children’s Association
Westchester Coalition for Police Reform
Westchester Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute for Nonviolence
Witness to Mass Incarceration
Women & Justice Project
Women’s Community Justice Association
Women’s Prison Association
Youth Represent


Full letter available at this link.

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