Bail ‘reform’ increased crime – and misleading studies don’t prove otherwise

A new report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Data Collaborative for Justice screams that recidivism rates have dropped thanks to New York’s 2020 bail reform laws.

Claiming to compare apples to apples, the DCJ measured pre-reform arrestees in New York whose bail had been set (“2019 group”) to those arrested for the same types of post-reform crimes for which bail was not set. could no longer be fixed (“group 2020”).

Among the successes?

‘Only’ 43.8% of those released under the new bail laws were re-arrested within two years of their initial arrest, compared to 50% of those who had been granted bail under the old law.

But that triumph is entirely undermined by larger realities.

A new report from the Data Collaborative for Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice shows that recidivism rates have dropped under New York’s 2020 bail reform laws.
Getty Images/fStop

Distortions of the COVID era

First reality: The drastic drop in the total number of arrests in 2020 and 2021.

This decline—not the effects of bail reform—has led to lower re-arrest rates for defendants released on bail.

Dramatically, arrests in New York rose from 214,000 in 2019 to 140,000 in 2020, increasing slightly to 155,000 in 2021.

The declines in 2020 and 2021 were largely due to COVID, even as crime increased.

Yet in 2022, despite 55,000 more reported crimes than in 2019, there were still 24,000 fewer arrests.

This means that the defendants from the “2019 group”, who had to avoid arrests in 2019, had a much higher chance of being arrested again than the “2020 group”, who roamed the streets during the less risky arrests 2020 and 2021. .

Second reality: As the DCJ acknowledges in its report, the data they had only included prosecuted re-arrests in their recidivism rates.

But because prosecutors declined to prosecute a much higher percentage of arrests in 2020 and 2021 than in 2019, the new arrests counted for the “2020 group” will be artificially lower.

Additionally, in 2019, most misdemeanor and non-violent crime defendants were taken directly to court for trial and would therefore be considered prosecuted for statistical purposes.

NYPD Crime Scene
Arrests in New York rose from 214,000 in 2019 to 140,000 in 2020, then increased slightly to 155,000 in 2021.
Peter Gerber

But as part of bail reform, more misdemeanors and non-violent crimes have been dealt with appearance tickets, where the defendant receives a summons to appear in court at a later date.

According to statistics from the Division of Criminal Justice Services, 17.1% of defendants summoned do not show up for their DAT, so these arrests are also not counted because the defendants are not apprehended.

For defendants summoned with a criminal record (whose data is particularly relevant for a study intended to measure recidivism), the number of non-presenters climbs to 31%.

The last reality: Solve rates (how often the NYPD solves crimes) are down significantly from 2019.

What else does the full data say?

Lower re-arrest rates after reform reflect changes in policing and prosecution, and COVID, not a miraculous drop in actual crime due to bail reform.

Play word games

Damningly, DCJ confuses the recidivism with a new arrest.

Recidivism indicates that an individual has resumed criminal activity.

A new arrest means the individual has been arrested for this criminal activity (and also prosecuted as part of the DCJ investigation).

At a time when the odds of being caught are fading, it’s rank advocacy — rather than scholarship — to claim that the lower re-arrest rate is “incontrovertible” evidence that the bail laws under bail reduced recidivism.

Yet DCJ is doing just that — in a report that, unsurprisingly, was partially written, edited, and guided by the Brennan Center for Justice and Arnold Ventures, two progressive pro-bail-reform groups.

Was the report at least reviewed or edited by prosecutorial organizations or bail reform skeptics?

It is doubted that it would have survived publication.

Even setting aside the ignored realities about the re-arrest data, the report still indicates (if you dig into its many subsections) that recidivism among defendants with prior criminal records has actually increased!

Rikers Island
Re-arrest rates for released defendants who were previously arrested for violent crimes rose from 61.9% to 72.4%.

Yes, re-arrest rates for released defendants who were previously arrested for violent crimes have increased from 61.9% to 72.4% as part of bail reform.

And re-arrest rates for released defendants with pending cases rose from 62.8% to 68.8%.

Even the DCJ had to acknowledge (hidden on page 44) that “future legislation or policy could do less [emphasis added] “high-risk” individuals (e.g., those with a history of violent crime) subject to mandatory release, allowing for greater judicial discretion in bail review.

DCJ notes on this page that defendants who had an ongoing case or prior arrest for a violent crime were significantly more likely to be re-arrested.

“Increased rates”

Persevere to the end of “Summary and Conclusions” to learn that contrary to all the headlines: bail reform “increased recidivism among people with significant recent criminal histories.”

Or see page 38: “For those charged with second-degree burglary, bail was associated with increased felony re-arrest rates.”

DCJ’s raw numbers further disprove its own argument!

In its pre-reform group, 3,510 defendants had been released on bail. Of these, 50% (1,755) were rearrested.

But there were at least 12,350 people in the post-reform group – and 5,409, or 43.8%, of them were rearrested.

More than triple the number of re-arrests in real figures!

Other data from the Office of Courts Management, not included in this report, shows that under bail reform, 79% of defendants with a pending case or prior conviction who are charged with petty larceny and then released on non-monetary terms are rearrested during their case. it is on standby.

For residential burglaries the re-arrest rate is 62%, commercial burglaries 70%, robberies 70%, third degree robberies 70%.

DCJ – much like our state legislature – simply refuses to see the forest for the blindly apparent trees. We have more crime in New York because we have more criminals on the streets.

We have more criminals on the streets because of bail reform.

Why is it so hard to understand?

Stop playing with misleading data and fix the law!

Jim Quinn was an executive district attorney in the Queens DA office, where he served for 42 years.

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