Two years into New York’s bail reform law, a new state report shows that criminal suspects are being rearrested at roughly the same rate as they were before the overhaul of the bail law was enacted.
It also indicates that judges, who can’t assess bail as frequently as before, are increasingly deploying non-monetary supervision tools such as ankle bracelets to monitor suspects.
And it shows that the bail reform law hasn’t sparked a rash of no-shows at required court appearances, as some had feared.
Those are some of the highlights in a new report issued by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. Though it is an agency under Gov. Kathy Hochul’s control, its data closely follows findings that Newsday, and other news outlets, reached when it crunched the numbers earlier this year.
The agency, unlike news outlets, had data from 2019 that can be compared with 2020 and 2021, the first two years that bail reform took effect. Under that new law, judges can no longer impose bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Violent felonies and some misdemeanors are still “bail eligible.”
Here are some takeaways from the report, which broke down the data in two large categories: New York City and everywhere else in the state.
Rearrest rates change little from 2019
The New York City rates of a suspect being arrested, released and rearrested on a separate charge have changed very little since bail reform was enacted. It was 19% in 2019; 22% in 2020; and 20% in 2021.
Outside the city, the rates showed the same pattern with slightly more fluctuation: 16% in 2019; 23% in 2020; and 21% in 2021.
A concern of critics of the bail law is that suspects are being released only to commit more crimes. But the data show that, overall, about 80% of suspects — 4 out of every 5 — aren’t rearrested.
Rearrests for violent crimes remain low
A big fear among some critics is that a suspect who has been arrested and released will later commit a violent crime. By and large, though, the rate of such occurrences hasn’t changed much.
Outside of New York City, about 1% of suspects were rearrested for a violent felony in 2019; about 3% in 2021.
Within the five boroughs, the rate went from 3% in 2019 to 4% in 2021.
Suspects aren’t skipping court
One of the arguments for imposing bail has been that it helps compel suspects to make required court appearances. But that’s not what is happening, the report shows.
Outside of New York City, the “failure to appear” rate for all suspects stayed level: 17% in 2019; 18% in 2021.
And in New York City, it fell from 15% to 9%.
The use of low-level bail has fallen
During the fight in Albany over the bail law, supporters often cited cases in which poor defendants couldn’t afford bail, such as $1,000, and ended up spending months or years in jail before getting a trial. They said this would never happen to better-off defendants who could afford bail.
The data show judges dramatically have cut the use of low-level bail. In NYC, bail of $1,000 or less was imposed 67 times in the final three months of 2021 compared with 1,404 cases in the first quarter of 2019.
Outside NYC, it declined from 3,594 instances in the first three months of 2019 to 550 in the final three months of 2021.
Detentions drop for nonviolent felonies
Even before bail reform, most suspects were being released (59% outside NYC) than detained in early 2019, no matter the classification of crime. That rate increased, as expected, by the end of 2021 (75%).
But perhaps the drop is most noticeable among those accused of nonviolent felonies.
In 2019, 64% of those accused of a nonviolent felony outside of New York City were either held on bail or remanded to jail. That rate was cut in half — to 32% — in 2021.
The overwhelming share of violent felons are still being detained, though it declined from 84% to 72%.
For misdemeanors — which, by far, account for the bulk of crimes — the detention rate went from 27% to 13% over the same period.
Use of alternative supervision increases
The new bail law basically mandated that local jurisdictions give judges more options to impose some sort of supervised release, such as requiring someone to wear an ankle bracelet to monitor movements or check in at certain intervals with law enforcement.
As a result, the use of such “non-monetary supervision” has increased.
In New York City, it went from being used in 5% of cases in 2019 to 16% in 2021. Elsewhere, it doubled from 7% to 14%.
Notably, those under non-monetary supervision continue to show the highest rates for being rearrested – which was true before and after the pandemic began.
Outside of New York City, 30% of those under non-monetary supervision were rearrested in 2021. For those who had to post bail, 26% were rearrested in 2021. For those were released – the bulk of defendants – 19% were rearrested in 2021.