April 26th, 2022

Hon. Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224


Hon. Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Democratic Leader, New York State Senate
188 State Street
LOB – Room 907
Albany, NY 12247


Hon. Carl Heastie
Speaker, New York State Assembly
New York State Capitol Room 349
Albany, NY 12247



Re: NYC Public Defenders Priorities for Remainder of Legislative Session on Criminal Legal System Reform


Dear Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie:


As New York City’s primary public defense organizations, we again write to share our criminal legal system reform priorities for the remainder of the 2022 legislative session. The budget process was consumed by discussions of changes to discovery, bail and mental health protections, but much work remains to thoughtfully address the entrenched failings of the criminal legal system and its wide-ranging consequences.


Since we last wrote on December 16th, 2021, the conditions on Rikers Island have continued to deteriorate. After the inexcusable deaths of 16 people detained at Rikers facilities in 2021, three additional people have perished in the squalid conditions, all presumed innocent and unable to make bail at the time of their death. In mid-March, the federal monitor appointed to oversee Rikers found that the jail continued to be “unstable and unsafe” and by mid-April the US Attorney in Manhattan threatened to place federal control via a receivership.


While we recognize the political pressure to address the perceived rise in crime, we know that the most effective method to increase public safety  remains creating and funding the conditions in which individuals can thrive. As the Governor herself has made clear, there is no data suggesting that bail reform is responsible for the rise of violent crime in American cities. We were disheartened to watch additional rollbacks made to the hard-fought reforms pass through the state budget process, despite the overwhelming evidence that these short-lived reforms have been a success. In the remaining weeks of the legislative session, we urge you to turn your attention to bills that will address many of the root causes that lead to criminal system  involvement, not simply increase jailing and incarceration, and that will create safer communities.


We commend you on restoring New York’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) resources and the funding for a fully staffed parole board, as well as ending the imposition of parole supervision fees. But much remains to be done. We urge you to continue the crucial work of reducing New York’s incarcerated population and investing in our communities by swiftly passing and signing the following proposed legislation this legislative session


The full letter of 2022 Legislative Priorities can be found here.