Lawmakers failed to get baseline data to judge bail reforms

They didn’t do their homework!

The lawmakers in Albany who initially passed the controversial bail reforms failed to require that state agencies perform a baseline analysis of its impacts — making it impossible to determine what effect the law has had on crime in the Big Apple, The Post has learned.

The egregious omission came to light as the fight over the law once again takes center stage in Albany. Gov. Kathy Hochul is pushing to trim the reforms back as part of the Empire State’s must-pass budget, which are fiercely opposed by progressive-led Democrats in control of the legislature.

The enacted legislation required the state agencies that oversee the court system and criminal arrests to track cases, but only after the law took effect. It included no provision to create a baseline for comparison by reviewing cases before the legislation kicked in — and the agencies have refused to produce one in response to media requests.

“You can’t accurately make good tweaks unless you have a comprehensive dataset to compare it against,” said Chris Herrmann, an assistant professor at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice who once served as a crime statistics expert at the NYPD. “Shame on them for not have a comparative year for bail reform data and shame on them [lawmakers] for putting analysts and reporter in this position to not have it. That’s on them.”

Criminal justice experts, like Herrmann, say the failure has left New York policymakers flying blind as reform critics and proponents battle over what role, if any, the bail changes have played in the Big Apple’s spike in shootings and murders.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at New York's Yankee Stadium.
Sources said that ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo was very against releasing data pertaining to the bail reform law.
AP/Richard Drew

“There’s no way to understand if a law is working if you can’t measure how it operated before the change,” said John Pfaff, a criminal law professor at Fordham University. “The whole point of reform is to make things better, but you can’t tell if that’s happening if you can’t compare it to how things were before.”

The two agencies tasked with keeping the data for the state — the Office of Court Administration and the Division of Criminal Justice Services — have published a database that contains information for the first 18 months-worth of cases that were arraigned after the law took effect, spanning from January 2020 through June 2021.

But they’ve refused requests from The Post to perform the analysis or to provide the underlying data for cases from before the law took effect, claiming it was exempt from release.

Eric L. Adams, Mayor of New York City Participated on the Special Event to Mark International Day of Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and Transatlantic Slave Trade Today.
Mayor Eric Adams has repeatedly called for the bail reform law to be amended.
Europa Newswire/Shutterstock

Legislative sources said the administration of disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo was “very against and fought tooth and nail against any previous data.”

“It was not our recollection that any of this came up,” responded an ex-official from the administration.

The information void has helped turn the reforms into a lightning rod as the Big Apple battles a surge in shootings and homicides.

Mayor Eric Adams and other critics have linked the bloodshed to bail reform and launched a highly public effort to cajole changes from Albany’s top lawmakers, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

New York Sate Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, speaks in favor of new legislation for police reform during a news briefing.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie had called the bail reform law a “scapegoat” for New York City’s rising crime.
AP/Hans Pennink

Reform boosters argue the spike in fatal gunplay is linked to a national pandemic-driven uptick in violent crime that’s been exacerbated by frayed relationships between police and minority communities and accuse Hizzoner and others of fear-mongering.

“We are concerned — as everyone is — about the spike in crime,” said Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) during a press conference in February. “But there is no connection between our bail reform and the national spike in crime.”

The month before, Heastie called the bail blame a “scapegoat,” telling reporters that “Part of my frustration is that when anything bad that happens, it’s got to be bail reform’s fault.”

Majority Leader of the New York State Senate Andrea Stewart-Cousins speaks at the New York State Democratic Committee Convention at the Sheraton Times Square in Manhattan.
Majority Leader of the New York State Senate Andrea Stewart-Cousins said there was no connection between the bail reform law and rising crime.
Stephen Yang

That back and forth is symptomatic of the failure to publish data that would allow the public and press to evaluate how the system worked before and after the changes.

“The bail reform law addressed many important inequalities in the system but there are serious issues being raised now about its impacts on violent crime and those issue need to be addressed,” said Richard Aborn, who heads the Citizens Crime Commission and has been repeatedly called on to probe the inner workings of the NYPD. “But in order to do so it is imperative that we have a common set of facts.”

Representatives for Heastie and Stewart-Cousins did not respond to requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan

https://nypost.com/2022/03/31/lawmakers-failed-to-get-baseline-data-to-judge-bail-reforms/