New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. Credit: Darren McGee- Office of Governor/Darren McGee

ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul met Tuesday with legislative leaders to press them to make changes to New York’s bail law, as a new report said updated data undermines criticism that bail reform is contributing to rising crime rates.

It was the first in-person meeting involving Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie since Hochul launched a plan last week to allow judges to set bail on a wider array of crimes.

Hochul has declined to answer reporters' questions about her plan, saying she won’t negotiate in public.

At issue is the historic bail overhaul, approved in 2019 and amended in 2020, that eliminated the option of bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

Also, the governor and legislative leaders — all Democrats — are discussing a state budget deal, due April 1, that could wind up including major policy items such as bail.

The meeting was one of several developments on the issue Tuesday.

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander issued a report he said refuted critics’ assertion that bail reform has contributed to rising crime rates.

Lander said the percentage of people who were arrested and released, and later rearrested for new crimes, is lower than before bail reform.

In the city in January 2019, 5% of those granted pretrial release committed another crime while out of jail, compared with 4% in December 2021.

Only 1% of such defendants were arrested for a violent crime while out on bail, Lander said.

“We wanted to take a look at the data on bail trends and understand what is really happening,” Lander told The Associated Press. “The conversation on bail reform has gotten divorced from that data.”

Supporters of bail reform have said the crime spike is driven more by gun proliferation and an uneven economic recovery and has occurred in areas around the nation that haven't changed bail laws. 

Opponents say people released without bail are committing more crimes and are responsible for the crime spike.

Also Tuesday, Democrats who control the State Assembly, which has been the most resistant to any rollbacks of the reform, were slated to discuss bail in a closed-door meeting, lawmakers said.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who is challenging Hochul in the June 28 primary, attacked her plan as inadequate for reducing crime, and criticized her for declining to talk about it publicly.

“She said she’s not going to discuss it. How is that leadership?” Suozzi said at a midmorning rally outside Hochul’s office in Manhattan.

Suozzi has said judges should be allowed to hold defendants in lieu of bail if they are considered dangerous.

Such a standard would lead to minorities being disproportionately locked up before trial, progressive legislators say.

Hochul has a 10-point plan that would make more crimes “bail eligible,” including those involving weapons and any occurring on a subway or bus against a passenger or employee.

The part of her proposal with perhaps the most steam at this point would give judges discretion to set bail for defendants who had been charged with multiple offenses within the previous 18 months, even if none of the individual charges was serious enough to have warranted bail restrictions, a source said.

 There also were provisions for making more gun-related crimes bail-eligible and lowering the number of guns one must possess to be prosecuted for trafficking.

 Hochul didn’t talk to reporters Tuesday but Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin said the administration’s plan isn’t a rollback but a limited approach to adjusting the bail law.

“The governor believes we should have a scalpel-like approach here,” Benjamin said. “We should only try to address things that we think will meaningfully deal with some of the issues we are seeing.”

 Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) on Tuesday called the plan “more of a political document than anything else.”

“Much of it is unrealistic,” Gianaris said on "The Capitol Pressroom," a public radio program.

 Suozzi, who has made crime a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign, said Hochul copied some of her proposals from a 15-point plan he issued earlier this year.

“Kathy Hochul said she would wait for more data and then, last week, she leaked a crime proposal to the press,” Suozzi said. “It is a half-baked, phony proposal that does nothing to address the crime problem.”

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