State Sen. Liz Krueger threw cold water on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recent proposal to again change state bail laws and allow judges to apply a “dangerousness standard” when considering bail for suspects.
“The Legislature discussed, debated, conferred on bail reform and the dangerousness standard question for years before we made the changes we did in bail reform,” Krueger said Friday during an interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.
Krueger, who represents Manhattan, chairs the Senate finance committee. With Albany’s tradition of making policy in the budget, Lehrer asked the veteran lawmaker to weigh in on a range of topics as the April 1st deadline approaches to pass a state spending plan.
“I do not believe that the Legislature thinks that the problems we are dealing with are related to the changes we made in bail reform," she said.
The comments reflect what Democratic legislative leaders have been saying for months regarding changes to the 2019 bail reforms approved by the Legislature and former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The issue gained new relevance this week after current Gov. Hochul drafted a 10-point plan to revise the bail laws once again.
The governor’s proposal would allow judges to set bail for additional charges and for repeat offenders. It would also grant judges more discretion to require bail in certain felony cases, based on a defendant’s criminal history or whether they possess a firearm.
Hochul, who is currently running for her first full term as governor, has faced attacks from moderate Democrats and Republicans for not addressing an increase in violent crime since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Krueger and criminal justice advocates say the spike in crime is happening nationwide and is unrelated to the bail changes.
“The data continues to reflect that the changes we made in bail are not correlated to the growth in gun violence or physical violence towards others on the streets,” she said Friday.
Krueger maintained that Democratic lawmakers are very concerned about the issue of violence but suggested that city and state lawmakers should focus on other areas to address the uptick.
“We have been proposing and even begging the city and the state to expand the number of residential psychiatric beds available,” Krueger said. "Expand the types of shelter beds that are targeted to those who are suffering the most — the safe haven model shelters.”
“Safe havens” are typically facilities that provide individual units along with mental health treatment and counseling services for people experiencing homelessness.
Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams proposed expanding safe-haven programs when they announced their plan to fight subway crime last month, but little progress has been made so far.
“I’ll never say that the Legislature is not open to making changes when we believe they are called for,” Krueger said, but added the state and city should be focused on “new models that will help get guns off the street — new models that will support alternatives to violence for young people.”
Adams has advocated for similar measures, but has also called on the state to change the bail laws to keep more dangerous criminals behind bars. The relaxation of the bail standards was meant to level the playing field for accused suspects who cannot afford to make bail.
Krueger also called for an expansion of mental health courts, requiring some people to be admitted to mental health care facilities and better case closure rates in law enforcement.
“We are very interested in exploring why the rate that police close cases — meaning capture the guilty party in felonies — has been going down, down, down for years,” she said. “The question is not just is there a crime, but did somebody get caught for doing the crime and did they actually go through the system correctly.”
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on closure rates.