New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce a series of criminal justice reforms including eliminating cash bail for nonviolent felonies and misdemeanor charges in his “State of the State” address on Wednesday, aides told The New York Times.
In addition to proposing an end to the cash bail system, Cuomo’s aides told the Times that as part of the reform package the governor will also announce plans to speed up evidence disclosures in trials, ban certain forms of asset seizure, and assist in post-prison job placement for former inmates.
The move comes as the cash bail system comes under increased scrutiny. Civil rights groups argue the current system is unduly harsh on poor or otherwise disadvantaged criminal defendants. Several cities around the country have already done away with the practice, including Houston, where a federal judge ruled the cash bail system puts at risk a person’s “constitutional rights to due process and the equal protection of the law.”
Cuomo, whose presidential aspirations are well known, will reportedly describe the package as “the most progressive set of reforms in the nation”—a shrewd bit of political positioning from an administration buoyed almost entirely by the wealthy donor class, which spent the waning months of 2017 vetoing a bill that would have facilitated some much-needed diversity in the entertainment industry, refusing to reform an outdated knife law that disproportionately targets people of color, and angrily mansplaining sexual harassment to a female reporter.
What’s more, as the Times notes, there is no guarantee that Cuomo’s “most progressive” reforms will ever make it into the law books at all, thanks to a Republican-held state Senate and stiff opposition from New York’s powerful police unions and bail bonds industry.