New York, NY Assemblymember Dan Quart, joined by anti-online harassment advocate Meaghan Barakett and exoneree advocate Jeffrey Deskovic, today announced a package of bills designed to improve New Yorks criminal justice system. The legislation will end cash bail, modernize online harassment laws, aid the wrongfully convicted, and reform our adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) as well as campaign finance laws for prosecutors.
New York has made some important changes to our criminal justice system to reduce incarceration and unfair sentencing, but vital work remains, said Assemblymember Dan Quart. This package of legislation will implement reform at every point of our broken criminal justice system from pre-trial issues such as bail, to preventing the appearance of corruption in our prosecutors offices, to properly compensating those wrongfully convicted of a crime. Its time to work on real solutions to make our justice system more fair, humane, and ethical.
The bills announced today include:
- (A08820: Relates to recognizance procedures and bail reform; repealer) Ends cash bail in New York. Requires every defendant to have a recognizance hearing within 48 hours of arrest where a judge will make a determination of either detaining a defendant, or releasing them until trial.
- (A08749: Relates to harassment through electronic communication) Puts online harassment on equal criminal footing as harassment that occurs in-person. Establishes an Office of the Prevention of Internet Crime and Harassment within the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
- (A03894: Relates to the availability of certain benefits to exonerees; repealer) Ensures those exonerated of a crime are given the same access to reentry services as other formerly incarcerated persons. Allows an exoneree to become eligible for health and dental benefits, tuition benefits, mental health discharge planning, and prioritized public housing.
- (A08798: Relates to orders of adjournment in contemplation of dismissal and sealing of defendant records) Reduces the ACD probationary period from up to 1 year to less than 90 days. Immediately seals the record of someone with an ACD.
- (A08728: Relates to special restrictions on campaign contributions for district attorney candidates) Creates a statewide database of criminal defense attorneys and their firms; prohibiting anyone on said list from donating more than $320 to District Attorney campaigns.
When I was viciously harassed online, it opened my eyes to the malicious acts that some can play in the online world and the irresponsibility that comes when no legal action is taken, said Meaghan Barakett, President of One Girl and former Miss New York USA. The results can be devastating to the victim, even fatal. We can no longer ignore this issue. This is an area where we need to give more attention to, as our culture is one that lives online these days. We can no longer be at peace with the laws that are currently in effect. We need to take action to safeguard injustices online. We need laws that protect.
"The entire life of someone who has been wrongfully convicted has been disrupted in a myriad of ways. Releasing them with no assistance whatsoever for basic issues like housing, mental health services, doctor and dental care etc. only exacerbates the situation," said Jeffrey Deskovic, founder of The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, who spent 16 years in prison prior to being exonerated by DNA. "It is NY State's responsibility to assist exonerees in rebuilding their lives as best they can, and Assemblymember Quart's legislation will address these and related issues."
Upon being released from prison for a crime I did not commit, there were virtually no support programs for exonerees. Whereas, if I was guilty and released there were numerous support programs, said Martin H. Tankleff, New York City Innocence Project Exonoree Advisory Board Member, who served almost 18 years inside New York State prisons. This must change. Assemblymember Quarts legislation will help right this wrong by ensuring those who are exonerated of a crime are given the same access to reentry services as other formerly incarcerated people. As a member of the New York City Innocence Project Exoneree Advisory Board, I can tell you that this legislation will help many exonerees who struggle with housing, medical and even obtaining a drivers license. I am hopeful that with this bill and the continued fight for exonerees' rights especially their re-entry rights, we can protect all of the men and women who have been and will be exonerated in New York State.