Dear Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins and Governor Cuomo,
We write to you as parents across New York State who celebrated the implementation of bail reform on January 1st. Many of us have children who have languished in jail pretrial. Many of us have children who watched their parents and loved ones suffer in jail on bail they could not afford. Others of us who have not been directly impacted by New York’s unjust pretrial system stand in solidarity with parents who have been devastated as they watched their children be subjected to the violence of New York’s jails or were separated from their children by an inability to afford bail. We need you to know that keeping our loved ones inside of New York jails puts an extreme threat on the health and safety of incarcerated peoples, incarceration staff, and anyone who comes near any New York jail because of where we currently stand with COVID-19.
We also write to you in dismay about the fear-mongering and lies by prosecutors and law enforcement across New York State. When they suggest that some people should not have access to due process and pretrial liberty, they are talking about our children and our families. This approach lacks care and justice under the law for Black and Brown people and people in poverty. When they refer to “public safety,” they do not consider us part of the public. Since 2001, 372 people have died in New York City jails. Since 2005 26 people have died in Erie County jails. Yet Acting Queens District Attorney Jack Ryan and Buffalo Sheriff Tim Howard have been silent about these victims. Pretrial jailing not only violates constitutional rights to the presumption of innocence, but it is also deadly. As parents, we know that our families are safe and thriving when schools are well resourced, when healthcare is accessible, and when housing is affordable. It is these community investments - not jails - that keep us safe.
As the budget deadline approaches, we ask you to stand with us and our families, to continue to fight for all New Yorkers and to insist on the full and fair implementation of the new pretrial laws that hold prosecutors and other system actors accountable. We urge you: do not rollback the new bail reform law that finally begins to address the devastation wrought by decades of wealth-based incarceration. Instead, invest in our communities through education, housing, healthcare, and mental health services. Our families deserve resources and support, not money bail or pretrial jailing.