Rashad Robinson, President of Color Of Change, issued the following statement in response to the New York legislature’s budget vote, which drastically weakens New York’s bail reform law:
“For thousands of legally innocent New Yorkers who will be condemned to jails, today’s budget vote is a death sentence. In the midst of a global health emergency, Governor Cuomo and the majority of New York legislators voted to gut bail reform and lock up even more New Yorkers – who have not been convicted of a crime – in filthy, dangerous, disease-ridden cages. They did so over the objections of advocates, health officials, and even their own colleagues, some of whom had to take extraordinary measures just to cast their votes against this dangerous budget. New York’s bail reform law has helped to free people from incarceration, reunite them with their loved ones, and strengthen their communities. The decision to roll it back now, as COVID-19 decimates jails and prisons statewide, is simply unconscionable.
“Governor Cuomo is taking a victory lap for his handling of COVID-19, but we must not forget the harm he has just done to Black communities. Because of systemic racism and structural inequalities in our justice system, the Governor’s decision to cut back reform will hit our communities hardest. Black men and women will be thrown in cages, Black families will be torn apart, and Black lives will be uprooted . Now, with COVID-19 sweeping through New York jails, Black people will also be fighting for their lives behind bars. And even as health experts urge the Governor to reduce the jail population as a matter of public health, these rollbacks will condemn 15,000 more legally innocent people into jails. Not to mention, he is refusing to grant clemency or release even those most vulnerable to the virus. The Governor is killing Black New Yorkers, even as he goes on TV and promises to protect them.
“Jail is dangerous. Jail is violent. And in the midst of this outbreak, jail is especially deadly. It is the linchpin for a crushing, costly, discriminatory system that unfairly targets Black, brown, and poor people. In standing up for this wretched system, leadership in Albany is now in lock-step with Donald Trump and his zero-tolerance policy on Black and brown communities. And in rejecting the science that supports decarceration, they are threatening to put our loved ones at risk.
“The push for bail reform began long before COVID-19, but it’s now more urgent than ever. And while we are deeply distressed by this budget vote, we remain focused, energized, and committed to ending mass incarceration.”