Assemblymember Pichardo: Criminal Justice Reforms are a Vital Step Toward Fairness for Bronx Communities

April 2, 2019

Assemblymember Victor M. Pichardo (D-Bronx) announced that the 2019-20 state budget he helped pass includes wide-ranging criminal justice reforms to improve fairness and expand legal assistance resources and programs available to Bronx residents.

“The state budget makes major headway in strengthening the legal rights of Bronx residents and emphasizing justice,” Pichardo said. “From providing assistance to navigate the courts, to ensuring individuals aren’t repeatedly punished for a crime they’ve already served their sentence for or may be innocent of, these reforms prove to our communities that New York’s legal system is working for them, not against them.”

The final state budget restores $4.38 million to the Legal Services Assistance Fund (LSAF), for total funding of $15.2 million, to support civil and criminal legal services grants. The budget also provides $15.5 million to support legal assistance programs, including:

  • $1.06 million for the New York State Defenders Association;
  • $1.1 million for Prisoners’ Legal Services;
  • $609,000 in domestic violence-related civil and criminal services support;
  • $600,000 for immigrant legal services;
  • $400,000 for Neighborhood Legal Services; and
  • $147,000 for rape crisis centers.

Further, the state budget advocates for undocumented immigrants by reducing the maximum sentence for those charged with a Class A misdemeanor from 365 to 364 days to avoid triggering automatic deportation proceedings, which occur with a sentence of one year or longer.

Additionally, to hold law enforcement agencies more accountable, the budget includes legislation requiring law enforcement agencies to expand on their reporting on incidents using force and provides that the state Division of Criminal Justice Services will develop a model policy for police and peace officers, including correction officers.

In order to protect more individuals’ privacy and help keep them on the right path, the budget limits the disclosure of arrest mugshots, unless their public release serves a law-enforcement purpose, and repeals the mandatory suspension of a driver’s license for drug offense convictions. By releasing mugshots to the public, New Yorkers can be exploited by online websites that charge fees to have the photos removed.[1] These posts often pop up in online searches by potential employers, hindering an individual’s chance of getting a job when the charges may have been dropped or they were found innocent, Pichardo noted.

Additionally, the final state budget includes $180,000 in funding Pichardo fought to secure for the New York Police Department Law Enforcement Explorers Program in the Bronx. The program serves to educate local youth ages 14 to 20 about law enforcement and bridges barriers between young adults in diverse neighborhoods and law enforcement officials. Pichardo has been a strong proponent and ally of the program.