In the past few days, New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams twice called for a special New York State legislative session to revise the state’s bail laws (the regular session ended in June).
He was quite specific about his wish list.
He wants judges to have the discretion to keep a suspect in custody if they deem the person dangerous. Under New York’s 2019 bail reform law, cash bail is banned except in serious violent felony cases and certain exceptional misdemeanors. Persons with a past history of violent crimes or repeat offenses are not ordinarily subject to cash bail. He also wants to zero in on juveniles in possession of firearms and have them tried in criminal courts rather than the more lenient family courts.
Although the mayor has been advocating for stronger bail laws as far back as his election campaign, his most recent calls were apparently triggered by particular incidents. A teenager, having just been released without bail, allegedly assaulted a police officer who had the nerve to admonish him for failing to pay his subway fare. Adams also railed against two teens who, in shooting at each other, seriously injured two young children caught in the crossfire.
“We have to deal with the catch, release, repeat,” Adams said.
Unfortunately, the powers that be in Albany – including the Governor, the Speaker of the New York State Assembly, the State Senate Majority Leader, and other reigning Democrats – are not in sync with the Adams on bail reform. Their collective decision is usually the end of the discussion – unless Adams chooses to regularly and publicly remind everyone of the cost their position imposes on New Yorkers. And that would be using what many would call his “bully pulpit” – the commanding platform available to him as the elected representative of a city of almost 8.4 million.
Respectfully, we say go for it, Mr. Mayor.