Gov. Kathy Hochul made public safety a top priority as she set the agenda for the new year in her State of the State address on Tuesday – with rebuilding the state police and adjusting bail laws among her major proposals.
Hochul noted that murders and shootings were down in 2022 – both statewide and in New York City. But she also said other crimes, like rape, burglary and grand larceny are up – mostly in New York City.
“Public safety is my top priority,” Hochul said. “I am committed to using every tool at my disposal to protect the people of this state, crack down on gun violence and violent crime, and invest in proven solutions that keep New Yorkers safe.”
The proposals announced Tuesday include:
- Changes to the state’s bail laws. The current laws prevent judges from imposing bail on a defendant before trial in most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony cases. Hochul says she wants to remove a clause that requires judges to implement the “least restrictive” measures to ensure a defendant returns to court in cases that are eligible for bail. She says that will be less confusing for judges who may be releasing defendants that they could otherwise hold until trial. The proposal is likely to be opposed by progressive Democrats and activists.
- $30 million in new funding to programs aimed at connecting people — especially those struggling with mental health issues and substance use – with alternatives to incarceration. That’s double what was in last year’s budget, Hochul said.
- Increasing the funding to help people leaving prison get back on their feet, from $4 million to $12 million. That includes line items like tuition assistance for continuing education and job readiness programs.
- $36 million to hire police officers and prosecutors in the 20 jurisdictions most affected by gun violence. That’s double the spending in last year’s budget, according to Hochul’s plan.
- Rebuild the state police by launching four academy classes, and bringing “Community Stabilization Units” to target specific crimes in nine communities in addition to the 16 where they are already in place. Hochul also wants state police to collaborate more with federal and local law enforcement to seek out illegal guns and fight violent crime.
- Hiring hundreds of new prosecutors around the state to reduce case backlogs. In a press release, a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Society, a public defender group, said the proposal ignores an equal need for more public defenders.