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State court data reveals fewer New Yorkers rearrested after being released

The Associated Press reports that 14 percent of criminal defendants are held on bail in New York City.
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Recently released data from New York’s court system shows that in the second year of bail reform, the number of people rearrested while awaiting trial for their first alleged crime edged down 5%. This comes as judges issued more arraignment decisions, and shifted more people toward nonmonetary, supervised release.

The overall rearrest rate in 2021 was about 17%, down from 23% in 2020. Long Island saw a similar — though smaller — decline of 1.8% to a rearrest rate of 18%. This means on Long Island about 82% of defendants were released into the community while awaiting trial and were not rearrested.

In 2020, the state enacted controversial new bail laws designed to allow more defendants to await trial outside of jail without having to pay bail. The laws were largely credited for a wave of Republican victories in 2021 local elections. Republicans argue that bail reform has caused higher crime and less public safety. Democrats have twice scaled back the reforms, allowing judges to set bail over more crimes.

The second year of bail reform saw a shift in how judges made arraignment decisions. In 2020, judges released about 58% of defendants without any conditions, known as ROR. That number dropped by 4.5%. Simultaneously, judges increased the number of people required to post bail or given nonmonetary, supervised release.

Nonmonetary, supervised release differs from ROR in that defendants are released under supervision in a manner tailored to their risk, ranging from an ankle bracelet to texting a probation officer occasionally.

In 2020, the new bail laws caused a significant shift in responsibility from jails to probation departments. Some local jurisdictions struggled with this shift as they scrambled to stand up supervision programs. They also complained about a lack of state funding.

This shift has also been marked by heated political rhetoric on whether the bail laws make New York less safe. Crime researchers said there isn’t enough data to be certain.

Statewide, 4.7% of defendants released into non-monetary supervision went on to commit a violent felony. On Long Island that translates to 76 crimes in 2021, 19 of which involved a gun.

The question elected officials and their voters have to decide is if those 76 cases are worth what advocates say is the benefit of bail reform: defendants not sitting in jail because they didn’t have money.

On Long Island, that’s 1,645 people who were given non-monetary release and weren’t rearrested — instead they went to work, watched their children and participated in society.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.