Arnold Ventures has announced a commitment of more than $5.5 million to fund a study of a bail reform law designed to overhaul pretrial practices in New York State.
The law, which goes into effect January 1, 2020, mandates that police officers issue desk appearance tickets to, rather than arrest, defendants for low-level offenses; that judges release nearly all misdemeanor and nonviolent felony defendants without bail before trial; and that prosecutors turn over evidence obtained in discovery within fifteen days of arraignment and give the accused access to the details of their case (full discovery) before withdrawing any plea offers. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, the reforms are projected to reduce the state's jail population by as much as 40 percent.
As part of a project led by the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice, four grants will provide support to the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance ($1.16 million over thirty-eight months), the Data Collaborative for Justice ($1.9 million over forty-two months), the New York City Criminal Justice Agency ($593,124 over two years), and the Vera Institute ($1.8 million over forty-two months) to conduct research on the effectiveness of the reforms. The grantees will provide support and technical assistance to various agencies and jurisdictions in the state, helping them understand how the new system is functioning; collect and analyze data on key metrics, including the number of desk appearance tickets issued, pretrial release rates, court appearance rates, and crime rates; and examine regional variations in the statistics to determine whether certain jurisdictions are more successful in implementing the reforms than others and why.
"There are sixty-two counties in New York State, and each will have to decide how to operationalize the legislation," said ISLG associate research director Jennifer Ferone. "It's a massive undertaking, especially since jurisdictions will have to use their existing resources."
According to Arnold Ventures, rural areas of the state lack the resources and other kinds of support needed to effectively implement the reforms, while the size and diversity of the state make it a national test case for how such reforms can be implemented successfully.
"Given the scope of bail reform in New York State, it is critically important that the public understand the impact of these reforms at the individual, system, and community levels," said Jeremy Travis, executive vice president of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures. "[We are] pleased to support this suite of research projects that will illuminate these reforms."
(Photo credit: Arnold Ventures)