Former inmates and lawmakers hold bail reform rally
Activists and former inmates rallied in Foley Square to demand that no changes be made to bail reform.
Last week, a handful of state lawmakers made a surprise visit to Rikers Island in an attempt to send a message to Gov. Kathy Hochul that they don't want any changes to be made to current bail reform laws.
Budget negotiations at the state level are still continuing, and Gov. Hochul wants to change the "least restrictive" practice in current bail reform laws. That practice requires a judge to consider a defendant's ability to pay when setting bail, and these advocates don't want that to be adjusted.
The governor has claimed that data shows changing that aspect of bail reform will not increase the overall rate of pretrial incarceration.
An end-of-the-year 2022 study from John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that despite the least restrictive standard, judges set higher bail amounts within the laws' implementation period.
Lezandre Kahadu was at the protest and says her son died in jail and she's still seeking justice. She says Hochul's planned pushback would be a "smack in her face."
"She's putting more parents in the boat I'm in," Kahadu says. "You keep putting these people in a place where people are dying."
Some groups at Thursday's rally include New York Communities for Change, VOCAL-NY, and Freedom Agenda. They stood alongside the former incarcerated persons, including D'Juan Collins, who says he was at Rikers Island for 15 months when he couldn't afford his $30,000 bail.
"I saw a lot of people going home and wondering if my time was going to come," Collins says. "Not knowing if a miracle was going to come for me."
Some in favor of changes to bail reform were at the event. They say sometimes people get killed by those on their fifth offense being released on bail.
News 12 reached out to the governor's office regarding the rally and received the following response:
"Gov. Hochul's Executive Budget makes transformative investments to make New York more affordable, more livable and safer, and she continues to work with the legislature to deliver a final budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers."