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Rep. Zeldin, GOP candidate for governor, would repeal New York’s bail reform laws if elected

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.)
Jacquelyn Martin
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin said he will repeal cashless bail reform if elected Governor of New York. Zeldin, a congressman representing eastern Long Island, said Governor Kathy Hochul has been silent on the issue.

“It’s time for her to break her pathetic silence. New Yorkers are desperate for it,” Zeldin said during his announcement of his public safety agenda Tuesday.

New York enacted bail reforms laws in 2020, which reduced the number of crimes on which judges could impose on cash bail. The reform was meant to limit pretrial detention for most nonviolent crimes in an effort to make the criminal justice system more equitable.

Court data last year shows about 2% of people released on bail were rearrested for a violent crime. In Zeldin’s backyard, about 1% of all defendants released on Long Island were rearrested for violent crimes while awaiting trial.

Still, Zeldin said these are not victimless crimes.

“Instead of handcuffing our criminals we’re handcuffing justice, we’re handcuffing our judges, we’re handcuffing police, we’re cuffing law abiding New Yorkers in order to secure our streets we have to put community way over criminals,” he said.

Zeldin’s call for action comes as recently elected New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat and a retired police officer, claimed last week that there was “an ocean of violence.” He also wants the Legislature to alter the law. Several other gubernatorial candidates, including Democratic Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi, also plan to update bail reform if elected.

“The law as it currently exists is resulting in too many people who are being released on cashless bail then going out and committing additional offenses,” Zeldin said. “The ability to pay is absolutely a top-of-mind factor for everybody, the law as it currently exists is resulting in too much additional crime.”

Hochul said she is open to discuss the law with the Legislature, if changes are needed based on incoming data. Democratic leaders have said they need more time to get more data.

The primary will be held in June.

Zeldin’s public safety agenda also includes:

  • Removal of locally elected district attorneys who don’t enforce the law
  • Giving judges more discretion in juvenile offender cases
  • Allowing judges more discretion when setting bail
  • Increasing penalties on “looting” businesses
  • Enacting a “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights”
  • Keeping qualified immunity
  • Repealing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act
  • Overhauling the Board of Parole/Parole hearing process to require unanimous decisions by Parole Commissioners when granting parole
  • Replacing members of the Parole Board who have expressed “poor judgment”
  • Establishing a process for victims and victims’ families to appeal parole decisions
  • Reworking the composition of Board of Parole Commissioners made up of victims advocates and law enforcement
Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.