Criminal Justice Reform

Creating a fairer, safer, and more just system for all New Yorkers.

TOP Criminal Justice Reform

Ensuring Equal Justice for All

Governor Cuomo has aggressively pushed smart and fair criminal justice policies to ensure New York State remains a national leader in progressive reform.

These reforms to the criminal justice system have resulted in a drastic reduction in mass-incarceration, while simultaneously enhancing public safety.  Since Governor Cuomo took office, New York State has closed 24 adult and juvenile detention facilities – more than any other administration in state history.  These prison closures eliminated over 5,500 beds resulting in an annual savings of approximately $162 million.  Governor Cuomo secured legislation in the FY 2020 Enacted Budget to close up to three additional prisons to continue the progress made to date. Two facilities were ultimately selected for closure following a comprehensive review of the operations of existing correctional facilities.

Since Governor Cuomo took office in 2011, the prison population has decreased by nearly 10,000 people – a 16.7% reduction – from 56,419 to 46,973 people, as of February 2019. In fact, the current population is at its lowest level in thirty years and leads the nation with the lowest imprisonment rate of any large state.  At the same time, New York State has remained the safest large state in the country with the lowest crime rate and incarceration rate among the most populous states.  In 2017, reported index crime in the state reached an all-time low since reporting began in 1975.

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York will continue to push progressive reforms to maintain New York’s status as the safest large state in the nation, without an unnecessary and counterproductive reliance on incarceration.

2019 Criminal Justice Accomplishments

Bail Reform

Eliminates cash bail for most defendants to ensure an individual’s wealth is no longer the determining factor for pre-trial detention while awaiting their day in court.

Discovery Reform

Requires the prosecution and defense to share all information in their possession well in advance of trial and enables defendants to review evidence the prosecution possesses prior to pleading guilty to a crime.

Speedy Trial Reform

Addresses excessively long pre-trial periods to reduce the backlog of criminal cases by requiring courts to increase accountability, reducing unnecessary delays, and ensuring all parties are prepared for trial.

Improving New York's Criminal Justice System

Prison Closure

Following unprecedented declines in the prison population, the Budget authorizes DOCCS to close up to three prisons on an expedited schedule. 

Raise the Age

The age of criminal responsibility was raised to 18, ensuring minors who commit non-violent crimes are provided with age-appropriate services to lead productive lives.

Solitary Confinement Reform

NYCLU Settlement

In 2015, the State and the NYCLU entered into a settlement to advance solitary confinement reform in state prisons, including creating and implementing sanction guidelines, ending solitary confinement for juveniles, reducing solitary confinement for pregnant individuals, and providing additional out-of-cell time.

Reforming Solitary Confinement in Local Jails

In 2017, Governor Cuomo and the New York State Commission of Correction issued regulations to enhance the State's oversight and enforcement of solitary confinement in local jails.

Overhauling Solitary Confinement

Governor Cuomo secured funding in the FY 2020 Budget to further restrict the use of solitary confinement in state facilities. In June of 2019, the Governor announced a joint agreement with the Legislature to administer reforms that, among other things, will restrict the use of solitary for vulnerable populations, cap the amount of time someone can spend in solitary, and expand the number of specialized units available for individuals leaving solitary confinement.

Enhancing Public Trust in Law Enforcement

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Increases oversight of asset forfeiture funds and expenditures and requires enhanced reporting on demographic data concerning seized assets.

Use-of-Force Reporting

Requires increased reporting from law enforcement agencies on uses of force and directs the Division of Criminal Justice Services to annually report on use-of-force data collected.

Special Prosecutor

In July 2015, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order to appoint the NYS Attorney General as a special prosecutor in matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement officers.

Increasing Fairness in the Criminal Justice System

Required Videotaping of Interrogations

Governor Cuomo passed measures to require law enforcement to record interrogations of individuals accused of serious crimes to ensure evidence reliability and protect against false confessions.

Expanding New York's DNA Database

New York requires DNA samples from anyone convicted of a felony or Penal Law misdemeanor, better enabling law enforcement to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent.

Clemency

New York fundamentally believes in the value of rehabilitation and community reintegration. Nowhere is this foundational principle more evident than in the practice of executive clemency.

Since 2012, Governor Cuomo has actively pardoned immigrants facing deportation, adults convicted long ago as teenagers, and others bearing the burden of a criminal record despite becoming productive members of society. The Governor has also commuted the prison sentences of men and women working tirelessly towards their own rehabilitation and the improvement of the lives around them.

Stay informed on New York State's clemency initiatives, including the State’s pro bono legal partnerships and voting rights restoration, as well as how to apply for clemency.

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