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Five New York Criminal Justice Reforms to Watch for in 2020

New York state legislators expect to debate dozens of criminal justice-related measures throughout the remainder of 2020. Democrats, who own the majority in the state Senate and Assembly, were able to push through the Bail Reform Act in 2019 and would like to build on that momentum by enacting several other reforms.

Here is a sampling of the criminal justice reforms that are on the table this year, as reported in the Criminal Justice Reform section of the governor’s website.

  1. Restricting solitary confinement in prisons — The Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement bill would put caps on how long a prisoner can be held in solitary confinement. HALT would also end solitary confinement for anyone over age 55, under age 21, those who disabled and those who are pregnant.
  2. Limiting interrogation of juveniles — A proposed bill would ban police and prosecutors from interrogating any juvenile until the person has consulted with a defense attorney. This would be an important new protection for young people who right now can be interrogated without a lawyer or family member present, so long as law enforcement first notifies the family of the arrest.
  3. Helping survivors of human trafficking clear their records — Trafficking victims are often forced by their traffickers to commit prostitution, theft, drug crimes and other felonies. For victims who are from other countries, these offenses can prevent them from getting asylum or other relief. Wiping these crimes off their records would allow trafficking victims to have a better chance of having a successful life.
  4. Making police more transparent about arrests and ticketing — Under the proposed Police Statistics and Transparency Act (STAT), police would need to indicate the race, ethnicity and gender of everyone they arrest or ticket. The bill recognizes that people of color are disproportionately arrested and ticketed for minor violations in New York.
  5. Medicating inmates with opioid addictions — Methadone and buprenorphine, two drugs known to be effective in reducing opioid dependency, are being considered, among others. The bill’s proponents point out that treating addiction while in jail could help prevent these people from returning to jail for drug crimes in the future.

At Tacopina, Seigel & DeOreo, we are in favor of common-sense criminal defense reforms that lead to more protections for the rights of ordinary New Yorkers. If you have questions about any reforms or need a defense lawyer right away, please call 212-227-8877 or contact us online.

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