New York Bail Reform and Its Implications on a tPP Case
New York’s well intended cash bail reform policy has created unintended consequences and sparked controversy in policymakers, law enforcement, and the public in one fell swoop. On January 1, 2020, New York’s new bail reform policy went into effect. They are following California and New Jersey who already have made bail reform policies (Asgarian, 2020). Under this new policy, prosecutors can only require bail or require the detention of defendants for certain felony charges, which includes almost all violent felonies, and some misdemeanor charges. Almost every Class A felony is still can have pretrial detention and bail, which includes murder, first degree-arson, first degree kidnapping, felony sex offenses, witness tampering, witness intimidation, and terrorism and terrorism-related charges (Lewis, 2020).
The intent behind this policy change was to change the justice system so that it did not disproportionately work against poor people, as the wealthy are typically the ones who can afford bail and work out their cases from home, whereas the poor accused of low level crimes often could not afford bail which means their life is disrupted and goes on pause until trial (Asgarian, 2020). Additionally, this can have even harsher consequences for people of color and poor people of color due to the intersections in their identity. People who are released are three times more likely to have favorable outcomes to their cases, as people who are stuck in jail are more likely to plead guilty in order to get out, rather than fight their cases (Brooklyn Bail Fund). Thus, before this policy went into effect, it was predicted that the number of pretrial detainees could decrease by more than 40 percent (Center for Court Innovation, 2019).
The case of Tiffany Harris, and other similar cases is where the controversy surrounding this bail reform lies. Tiffany Harris was accused of the unarmed assault of several Jewish victims. On or about December 27, 2019 she accosted and slapped three Orthodox Jewish Women in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and yelled anti-Semitic things at them. She was released without bail the next day due to the bail reform policy only to be arrested again the next day for attacking another woman in Prospect Heights only to be released again two days later. Tiffany Harris was initially charged with misdemeanor assault charges, however those charges were enhanced to felony when a grand jury indicted her on felony hate crime charges of causing bodily injury. However, even after her charges were enhanced, she was released because the charges still did not qualify for bail under the new state laws (Denney, A. & Fitz-Gibbon, J., 2020).
The Tiffany Harris case has been included in The Prosecution Project data set after her charges were upped to felonies and enhanced with a hate crime. They were included due to the clear socio-political motive behind the crime. In that, her motivation was based on the ideological target of religion, more specifically Jewish. This case has become infamous due to her repeated arrests and releases from similar crimes, which many tout as the reason the bail policy reform is a failure and dangerous to the public. While it is hard to argue against the idea that Tiffany Harris is perhaps dangerous, especially due to her repeated offenses, her case may be useful for ways to improve the bail reform. At the core, the bail reform policy means well and aims to correct injustices and discrimination within the justice system, however, this case shows that there are loopholes created by this system that could be changed to make it more just.
Asgarian, R. (2020, January 17). The controversy over New York’s bail reform law, explained. Vox. https://www.vox.com/identities/2020/1/17/21068807/new-york-bail-reform-law-explained
Denney, A., & Fitz-Gibbon, J. (2020, March 3). Tiffany Harris arraigned on felony hate crimes—And released again. New York Post. https://nypost.com/2020/03/03/tiffany-harris-arraigned-on-felony-hate-crimes-and-released-again/
The Problem. (n.d.). Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. Retrieved March 29, 2020, from https://brooklynbailfund.org/the-problem
Rebecca C. Lewis. (2020, January 14). What to know about the state’s new bail reform law [Text]. CSNY. https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/criminal-justice/what-know-about-states-new-bail-reform-law.html
Rempel, M., Rodriguez, K., & Center for Court Innovation. (2019, April). Bail Reform in New York: Legislative Provisions and Implications for New York City. Retrieved March 29, 2020, from https://www.courtinnovation.org/sites/default/files/media/document/2019/Bail_Reform_NY_full_0.pdf