In this issue:
Albany Fails to Pass Bail Reform
NYS Legislature Passes Bill to Create a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct
Pre-Arrest Diversion in Connecticut
albany fails to pass bail reform
The 2018 legislative ended in New York without the State Senate passing bail reform, leaving New Yorkers to suffer another year. While the State Assembly passed a major reform bill — the Walker Bill — the State Senate refused to take up the legislation. The State Senate did indicate an openness to discussing bail reform in final negotiations; they included bail language in their big negotiation bill, referred to as the “Big Ugly” (S9097). But the proposal was a far cry from the robust reform needed to end wealth-based detention and racial disparities in pretrial detention. Katal and other criminal justice reform advocates swiftly collaborated to release a statement rejecting the Senate’s proposal and urging the legislature to rectify systemic inequalities in the criminal justice system. You can read the full statement that was signed by over 40 community groups here.
You’ll remember that the legislative session began this year with Governor Cuomo promising bold criminal justice reform; yet the governor was mostly absent from the capitol in recent weeks and Albany once again failed to address the jail crisis in New York. The session may be done, but the fight isn’t over. Working with our partners, we will double down on our efforts, continue our organizing, and build power to hold Albany accountable. Want to get involved? Let us know by replying to this newsletter or contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Senator John DeFrancisco, sponsor of the bill to create a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct. Photo: Dan M. Clark/New York Law Journal)
nys legislature passes bill to create a commission on prosecutorial conduct
In a surprising welcome twist in the final days of the legislative session, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed a bill that would create a State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct – S.2412-D (DeFrancisco) / A.5285-C (Perry). (The story of how this happened is worth recounting at some point.) Prosecutors are bestowed with great power – perhaps the greatest in our criminal justice system. Yet they are largely a self-regulating body, shielded from outside scrutiny because of laws that insulate them from liability when they take harmful actions. A State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct would review complaints filed against prosecutors and close the gap in accountability. The effort to pass this legislation was led by people who had been wrongfully convicted by bad prosecutors, through a group called It Can Happen To You. Katal has supported efforts to pass this bill; earlier this year, we met with the board of It Can Happen to You to discuss prosecutors, bail, discovery, and speedy trial reform.
Take action: We now must urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law. If you live in New York, please consider calling him at 518-474-8390 and urging him to quickly sign the prosecutorial conduct commission bill.
(Katal staff and members at the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition, with finished Justice Not Harm bags.)
pre-arrest diversion in connecticut
There is a growing interest in Connecticut regarding pretrial arrest diversion — like LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion). Community members must be engaged in the process of creating such programs — they need to be involved to shape it and hold it accountable. Thus, the process must be anchored by community organizations to be effective. Check out our fact sheet about essential elements for developing a pre-arrest diversion program.
Katal is working with our partners at the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition to outline plans for community-driven pre-arrest diversion programs in Connecticut, in cities like Hartford. If you’d like to get involved, please email Katal’s Community Organizing Fellow, Kenyatta Thompson, at email@example.com.