New York desperately needed to fix its criminal-justice system, but — as we’re now belatedly learning — the reforms Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law last spring go way too far. They’re sure to cause more harm than good.
What should have been a compromise, with broad bipartisan support, is instead a leftist wish list. Think about it: Who doesn’t want a fairer system and more humane conditions for inmates?
On the national stage, President Trump signed the First Step Act (a k a the “Kim Kardashian bill”) last year to reform federal prisons and adjust sentencing guidelines and promised that a “Second Step Act” was not far behind. He got support for that from both sides of the aisle. But New York liberals won’t compromise.
Even before they’re fully implemented, their plans have been disastrous. Every week brings a new story of a prisoner bailed out by leftist groups who went on to commit another crime.
The Post noted one case just a week ago: “The Bronx Freedom Fund posted $2,000 bail for Luis Olivo, accused of abusing a 3-year-old boy.” Olivo was subsequently “arrested again — for allegedly groping an 8-year-old girl.” What will happen when there is no bail at all for suspects like Olivo?
No wonder a Manhattan judge last week called the law flat-out “stupid,” as he lamented having to set free — with no bail — burglary and robbery suspects.
Average New Yorkers are understandably scared: Elizabeth Carr, founder of New Yorkers for Safer Streets, tells me: “We’ve been told the city and state are prepared to monitor the impact of these new initiatives, but how long will it be until they reach their conclusions and, if there is shown to be a correlation between violent crime and new legislation, how many people will have been hurt in the interim?”
For those of us who have long supported bail reform, the plan is like dumping a bucket of water on someone who’s thirsty. Yes, sometimes bail amounts are excessive and we should change that. In 2016, I pushed for bail reform on these very pages: “When I was 16, I sat in a courtroom as an 18-year-old friend was ordered held on $3,000 bail, an astronomical amount to his family that they simply couldn’t pay.”
Yet I never imagined that $3,000 bail amount, for a first offense, nonviolent crime, would be replaced with a gift of Mets tickets or gift cards to restaurants given to the accused to bribe them to show up for their court date, as Mayor Bill de Blasio has suggested.
Reform advocates like me should be the target audience for the no-bail plan, but Cuomo & Co. went overboard to pander to the left’s extremists. Lower bail is one thing; no bail at all and gifts for the accused, paid for with our tax dollars, is quite another.
Law enforcement is worried, too. New Police Commissioner Dermot Shea has expressed concerns and urged rollbacks. Asked about the flaws — like the fact that judges can’t hold a suspect they are certain are a threat to public safety — state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins shrugged off potential fixes as “criminalizing poverty.”
It doesn’t stop with bail reform: The plan to close Rikers Island is another loopy idea. Of course we should support better prison conditions, but how does moving inmates to other prisons do that?
Voting against the plan, City Council member Robert Holden (D-Queens) said shutting Rikers “has become a religious movement, a symbol of criminal-justice reform that will not actually solve the justice system’s problems.”
He’s right: Shutting a prison on an island but opening four more in residential areas isn’t likely to keep us safer or help inmates. And the $8.7 billion needed for that could have far better uses, like improving conditions at existing prisons at a fraction of the cost.
That’s the problem with de Blasio progressives: There’s no room for a balanced approach. It’s all or nothing. That Cuomo allowed himself to go along and be pushed off this cliff is unfortunate.
No, the left can’t abide simply reducing cash bail to sane levels; we have to eliminate it altogether. We can’t reform prisons; we have to completely close them. And what should we expect for it all? More criminals on our streets — and more crime.
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