Study shows those released under NY’s bail reform laws are less likely to get rearrested

Gothamist, Matt Katz, March 15, 2023

Controversial new state bail laws that some politicians say lead to offenders getting released and then rearrested actually had the opposite overall effect, according to a new study of criminal justice data released on Tuesday.

The study, from John Jay College’s Data Collaborative for Justice, showed that the 2020 bail reform laws eliminating judges’ ability to impose bail for low-level crimes actually reduced the likelihood that someone would get arrested again.

The one exception was for bail-eligible people who were released following recent violent felony arrests. The rate of rearrests for that cohort of offenders increased slightly.

“Fundamentally, we found that eliminating bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies reduced recidivism in New York City, while there was no clear effect in either direction for cases remaining bail eligible,” said Michael Rempel, director of John Jay College’s Data Collaborative for Justice, in a statement.

The study did not delve into the reasons behind the relative lack of recidivism among those who were released without having to pay bail. But experts have said that even temporary incarceration can lead to termination from jobs, family disruption and housing loss, which can incentivize further criminal activity.

The purpose of the 2020 reform laws was to allow people charged with most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies to be released while their cases played out in court. That meant they didn’t have to choose between paying bail and going to the dangerous Rikers Island jails. Instead, judges had to release people under other conditions like supervised release, which involves nonprofit agencies in the community doing monitoring and support.

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