LGBTQ, Women, and Survivor Advocates Celebrate the Many New Yorkers Who Will No Longer Suffer the Harms of Money Bail & Pretrial Jailing

December 3, 2019

LGBTQ, Women, and Survivor Advocates Celebrate the Many New Yorkers Who Will No Longer Suffer the Harms of Money Bail & Pretrial Jailing

New York – Today, leading LGBTQ, women, and survivor advocacy organizations, including Girls for Gender Equity, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, New Hour for Women & Children Long Island, NYC Anti-Violence Project, Violence Intervention Program, Inc., Women’s Prison Association, and Black Lives Matter (BLM) Hudson Valley,  released the following statement about the bail reform measures which will go into effect in January, 2020:

“We are survivors fighting for a better, safer and more just New York – and we know that this requires transforming our discriminatory pretrial system.

As advocates serving thousands of  survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence a year, including Black and Latinx, immigrant, LGBTQ and gender non-binary New Yorkers, we fought for transformative bail reform in New York State, calling for the elimination of money bail and the implementation of a pretrial system that substantially limits pretrial incarceration and ensures due process and individualized justice. With support from the vast majority of residents across the state, bail reform legislation enacted last session and will go into effect on January 1st.

Rather than celebrate the work of New Yorkers to end the criminalization of poverty and protect the presumption of innocence, the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) has tried to stymie the implementation of the new reforms by stoking fear about “public safety.”

However, as advocates and people who have been impacted by intimate partner violence, we know that Black and Latinx, immigrant, LGBTQ, and women survivors are often themselves criminalized and that pretrial incarceration can undermine the safety of survivors. Mandatory arrest laws and cursory primary-aggressor assessments by law enforcement mean that survivors are often arrested instead of – or in addition to –  the person engaging in a pattern of abusive partner behavior. The Family Violence Program of the Urban Justice Center in New York City found that survivors of IPV had been arrested in 27% of cases received through their hotline in a two-year period. 85% of survivors arrested had a prior documented history of being subjected to domestic violence, and 85% were injured during the incident that led to their arrest.

As anti-violence organizations, we know that pretrial jailing can be deadly. According to the Bureau of Justice, 471 New Yorkers died in county jails between 2000 and 2014.[1] The State Commission on Correction has found that “gross incompetence” cost the lives of people in jails from Nassau to Onondaga, including India Cummings in Erie County and Layleen Polanco in New York City.

Pretrial incarceration also harms children and families. The vast majority – 80% – of incarcerated and detained women are  mothers and primary caregivers.[2] Even a few days of pretrial detention can result in the loss of employment and housing and the initiation of child neglect cases with devastating long-lasting impacts on the financial stability, health and well-being of families.

We are acutely aware that too often, survivors’ experiences are exploited when prosecutors work to pass laws to give themselves broad discretion and leverage in court in order to increase convictions. Every day, we hear from survivors that what they really need is economic stability, housing, health care, and trauma-informed services.

If District Attorneys are interested in supporting survivors, they need to listen to us and fight for emergency shelter and long-term housing, economic justice, and access to robust healthcare.

This is what survivors need. This is what New York State needs.”