AVP Says No to Rollbacks Against Bail Reform

New York City, NY – The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) joins NYC Against Hate Coalition and communities facing hate violence and intimate partner violence to demand “No Rollbacks” to the current New York State bail laws. AVP serves thousands of LGBTQ people every year, who as LGBTQ, Black, Latinx, immigrant, working-class, and low-income survivors of violence, were often themselves criminalized and detained because of the discriminatory nature of cash bail and pretrial detention. 

Last year, AVP joined many other social justice organizations to push New York State to pass bail and pretrial reforms aimed at reducing pretrial detention, ending the rampant injustices of money bail and ensuring due process. Backed by criminal justice advocates and formerly incarcerated individuals, legislators passed critical bail reform laws in April 2019 which went into effect January 2020. The Senate is now considering a rollback proposal in the state budget which would unfairly jail many more people than under current bail reform laws. As an organization that serves survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) and hate violence, AVP supports the existing bail reform laws and opposes proposed rollbacks. 

We’ve seen firsthand the negative impact criminalization, cash bail, and pretrial incarceration have on LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence. The proposed rollbacks would continue to harm LGBTQ and other survivors of violence in the following ways.

  • The regressive, rollback proposal greatly expands the potential for bias and discrimination to influence pre-trial decisions. The proposal would rely on a deeply discriminatory expanded judicial discretion system, more opportunities for electronic monitoring, and the equivalent of a ‘dangerousness’ clause that allows judges to use defendants’ previous interactions with the criminal legal system to keep them in jail. LGBTQ survivors entangled in the criminal legal system are often discriminated against by judges because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or other identities. Increased judicial discretion likely means increased opportunities discrimination against LGBTQ survivors in the criminal legal system.
  • Pretrial jailing, expanded under the Senate proposal, can be deadly. The proposal is based on the federal system, which jails roughly 75% of people charged, compared with 10% in New York currently.  These rollbacks would return New York State to a system that led to the deaths of Layleen Polanco and Kalief Browder who languished in jail after being charged with minor offenses because they could not afford bail. Layleen died from an epileptic seizure while being held in a solitary confinement cell in Rikers Island. Kalief was held at Rikers for three years, two of those in solitary confinement. After the charges against him were eventually dropped, he returned home, only to later die by suicide.

Opponents of bail reform are using intimate partner violence and hate violence to rail against bail reform, arguing current bail laws jailing less people put survivors in danger. But rollbacks would actually make survivors less safe. In fact, LGBTQ survivors of violence can become entangled in the criminal justice system because of their status as survivors, as:

  • Mandatory arrest laws and poor primary-aggressor assessments by law enforcement mean that survivors are often arrested instead of – or in addition to – the person engaging in abuse. Arrests cause more trauma and entrap survivors in our criminal legal systems, which continues to cause harm and trauma, especially against Black, Latinx, immigrant, transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) survivors of violence. Rollbacks could make it more likely that LGBTQ survivors of violence are incarcerated pre-trial. 
  • LGBTQ survivors of violence are more likely to have had encounters with the criminal legal system before, during, and after surviving violence. Especially as there are no “perfect survivors” of violence, working class poor LGBTQ survivors of color include people with prior arrests and records, people with unstable immigration status, people who work in illicit street economies for survival, including sex work and those who sell and/or use substances. This is because marginalized survivors have been left out of legal economies and social safety nets, and the state has historically used the criminal legal system and pretrial detention to criminalize instead of aiding them.

AVP asks that the State reject rollbacks on bail reform, and find more ways to invest in measures that will actually help LGBTQ and other survivors of violence live in safety and dignity. This includes increasing the State’s social safety net by investing in housing and services for trans and gender non-conforming people, passing laws like Good Cause Eviction and Home Stability Support, and repealing discriminatory policies like the ”Walking While Trans” loitering law. Investing in communities that experience hate violence and intimate partner violence protects communities, sends a strong message that all New Yorkers are important and valuable members of our society, and will go a long way toward changing the attitudes that lead to violence.