Even as prosecutors and police across New York are struggling to avoid disaster as one major wave of “criminal-justice reform” kicks in Jan. 1, pressure is mounting for yet another round.
New York City’s top legal-aid groups are asking the Legislature for everything from marijuana legalization to more restraints on police, as well as a softening of anti-prostitution laws and new early-release rules for older felons.
Yes, the list includes some good (or at least defensible) ideas. But the current Legislature seems all too likely to simply give “reformers” everything they ask — without any input from the law-enforcement community.
That’s what lawmakers did this year, ignoring even solidly progressive district attorneys as they upended the system. As a result, judges soon will be unable to require bail unless the charges involve a handful of violent crimes. Hundreds of inmates across the state will be sprung from jail this month in advance of the Jan. 1 changeover.
Pot legalization will likely take a separate course, as legislators find it involves a host of tough complications. Indeed, New Jersey lawmakers have finally given up on writing laws to enact such a shift, instead opting for a ballot initiative to force the issue.
As for the others: Is it really asking too much for the Legislature to 1) look carefully at each specific “reform,” and 2) fully engage with the law-enforcement community, rather than just signing off on a wish list from folks focused exclusively on one part of the equation?
And, please, drop the “mass incarceration” rhetoric. New York’s statewide prison population is down more than 35 percent over the past two decades, to roughly 45,000 in a state of more than 19 million people. Everyone would like to see it go still lower — but “mass” is just a lie.
Most important: New Yorkers should get to see the impact of the changes already baked into the cake before lawmakers drop yet more wholesale “reform.”
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