State Lawmakers Must Stop the Governor’s Plan to Send More People to Die on Rikers Island


Contact: Anthony Chiarito,  

New York, NY – As State lawmakers return to Albany and Governor Hochul attempts to rollback bail and discovery reform yet again through the State budget process, The Bronx Defenders issued the following statement: 

“The Governor’s attempt to rollback bail and discovery reform is deeply disturbing and should be called out for what it is – a cowardly abdication of leadership to advance purely political interests, rather than actions based on facts or an earnest desire to advance public safety.

“Bail and discovery reform are working. They are leveling the playing field and increasing fairness, with no increase in crime as a result. That means more people who are presumed innocent are safe from the violence, torture, and potential death inside jails like Rikers Island. Meanwhile prosecutors and the police are finally being forced to turn over all the evidence to New Yorkers they have accused in a timely fashion.

“Despite the Governor’s claims to the contrary, no one is confused about these reforms. Judges are not confused by the legal standards in the bail laws. Nor are police or prosecutors confused about their discovery obligations. They simply resent the loss of their previous power to unfairly cage people who are presumed innocent and withhold evidence until the eve of trial. We cannot go back to a system of mass pre-trial incarceration or trial by ambush, coerced pleas, and wrongful convictions. Enough is enough.

“Black, brown, immigrant, and working-class New Yorkers are systematically targeted and funneled into a criminal legal system rife with entrenched racism and classism. Bail and discovery reform were the first steps by lawmakers to reckon with and address this systemic injustice. To roll back those reforms now would be to tell New Yorkers our commitment to equity, fairness, and justice was a sham and will encourage policies that fuel inequity and mass incarceration.

“An unfair legal system that allows prosecutors to withhold evidence from the accused and gives judges unfettered power to jail more people pre-trial will not increase public safety and the Governor knows it. State lawmakers must not allow another Kalief Browder or Layleen Polanco to die, nor embolden forces that are set on keeping Rikers Island open indefinitely. We urge State lawmakers to hold the line, fully fund discovery reforms as intended, and show real leadership and courage where the Governor has not.”