To the editor:
Groundbreaking criminal justice reforms went into effect in New York on Jan. 1. As Bend the Arc activists, we are proud to campaign publicly and intentionally as Jews for the passage of these reforms in 2019.
The reforms already are reducing the number of people held in jail awaiting trial, and the amount of time they are held.
Fundamentally, the laws are designed to have one system of justice for all New Yorkers, so that the poor are held to the same detention standards as everyone else.
Most people facing misdemeanor charges and non-violent felony charges (90 percent of all arrests each year) are to be released prior to trial. Bail was never intended as punishment or a public safety measure, but to ensure that those accused of crimes return to court and face justice. The reforms simply remove the accused’s economic status from the equation of who is detained and who is released prior to trial.
Violent felonies and some misdemeanors and non-violent felonies are still subject to the setting of bail.
Recent incidents have been used to create a backlash against the reforms, including the case in Brooklyn of Tiffany Harris, who was arrested and charged with slapping three Orthodox Jewish women, released without bail, and then re-arrested for hitting someone else. Those arguing for a rollback of the legislation use justifiable fear in the Orthodox Jewish community to argue that the new laws do not protect victims of hate crimes.
But in this case, and others, more appropriate action by the judge could have resulted in mental health counseling after the first incident.
We strongly oppose any rollback of these reforms.
Early data on the reforms have seen large reductions in the number of people in jail, with no increase in crime. We advocate for leaving the law in place until more significant data can be collected and assessed.
As Jews, we oppose politicizing acts of anti-Semitism in an attempt to stop criminal justice reform.
The author is a member of Bend the Arc Jewish Action-Riverdale, which includes fellow members Sue Ellen Dodell, Leah Ferster, Bart Schiavo, Deborah Schiavo and Aviva Schwab.