ALBANY, N.Y. (January 14, 2019) – Over 500 parents, educators and people impacted by New York’s unjust pretrial system traveled to Albany from across New York State on Monday to demand the State legislature pass bail and discovery law reform, decarcerate jails, and fully fund Foundation Aid for our public schools.
The Schools, Not Jails Advocacy Day united the #FREEnewyork Campaign and the Alliance for Quality Education in an unprecedented collaboration demanding that New York divest from incarceration and invest in educational equity. Right now, 16,000 New Yorkers languish in jail pretrial, incarcerated overwhelmingly because they cannot afford bail. While counties spend a total of 2.5 billion dollars on the jail system, New York systematically underfunds public schools. Black and brown communities disproportionately suffer at the hands of mass jailing and the failure to fully fund public schools.
Monday in Albany, New Yorkers from across the state demanded that the legislature overhaul unjust bail and discovery laws and ensure every student has access to high quality public schools. Attendees traveled from as far as Buffalo, Rochester, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and New York City, as well as from around the Capital District.
As people and families impacted by mass jailing and New York’s under-resourced schools, participants called on Governor Cuomo and their legislators to take urgent action and pass:
* Bail reform that ends mass pretrial incarceration and protects the presumption of innocence and right to freedom for all people.
* Discovery reform that guarantees people have access to all evidence in their case and are not coerced into plea deals.
* Foundation Aid: $1.6 billion in Foundation aid this year and a three year phase-in of the full Foundation Aid owed and the adjustments recommended by the Board of Regents for equity and to further meet the needs of English Language Learners
* Culturally Responsive Education: $50 million to implement a statewide Culturally Responsive Education program. Enact state legislation to guarantee Culturally Responsive Education is mandated in all schools across the state.
* School Climate: $50 million to implement positive climate strategies and practices that break the school-to-prison pipeline. Enact the New York State Safe and Supportive Schools Bill (Sponsored by Assemblymember Nolan & Senator Montgomery).
Participants & Leaders of the day said the following:
“I am a mother and a person impacted by money bail. That’s why I am in Albany today,” said TJ Shivers, member of New York Communities for Change in Long Island and leader of the #FREEnewyork Campaign. “Our bail system takes money from families who can least afford it. Although I am on a fixed income, a judge set my bail for $1,000 cash or $1,000 bond. In order to return home to my son, I had to pay a bail bondsman. Even though my case has been dismissed, I am still in debt. If New York cares about families, we need to end pretrial jailing and instead invest in education and the resources communities need to thrive.”
“This is our opportunity to remind our leaders that money is owed to not only our children but our community. There are future leaders in our classrooms whose educations have been impeded by politics. You can’t say that students matter in this state and not provide the funds that are owed to them. We know additional resources would aid in the success of these children. We want every child, from every area to have the same opportunity to achieve. These are our children’s dollars, and we need them now!” said Deidre Batson-Griggs, Buffalo parent and member of Citizen Action of Western New York.
As a person who spent 11 months in the Nassau County jail pretrial, I know the tremendous harm of New York’s current bail and discovery laws,” said Marvin Mayfield, member of JustLeadershipUSA and leader of the #FREEnewyork Campaign. “I also know the tremendous power of this statewide movement for justice, united in a demand for bail reform that eliminates wealth and race-based jailing and vastly reduces the number of people incarcerated pretrial and for discovery reform that overturns the “blindfold law” and ensures people have access to the evidence in their case. Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have an opportunity to make 2019 the historic year we overhaul our unjust pretrial system and end New York’s jail crisis. Directly impacted people and advocates across the state will work tirelessly for these outcomes.”
“Our families and neighbors are suffering in jails and prisons all over the state of New York. Today we are heading to Albany to make a change for the criminal justice system — speedy trial, end money bail, discovery reform and stopping the abuse from jail guards. I sure hope this is the year we win reforms in New York State after years of delays,” said Bronx resident and VOCAL-NY Community Leader Jovada Senhouse.
“Ending the school to prison pipeline starts with fully funding our public schools and spending that money on the programs and supports that keep our children safe, engaged and in school. We need to fully fund our schools and we need to pass the Safe and Supportive Schools bill to make sure that our money gets the biggest bang for the buck!” said Rosemary Rivera, AQE board chair and co-executive director, Citizen Action of New York.
“New York State faces a dire human rights crisis due to its pretrial incarceration system that jails people for their race and poverty. Every day we post bail for people, we are reminded of the tremendous human cost of Albany’s inaction, said Elena Weissman, Director of the Bronx Freedom Fund. “We call on lawmakers to stop using people’s lives as political bargaining chips, and to allocate resources to establish a system of true pretrial justice that upholds the presumption of innocence for all New Yorkers.”
“New York State has a national reputation of implementing progressive criminal justice reform policies, when in reality our policies are conservative and punitive. This is our opportunity to pass meaningful reforms that work to decarcerate our state and invest in education. These reforms will allow New York residents to have a better quality of life and fewer will be trapped in the cycle of crime and poverty,” said Jordyn Rosenthal, Senior Associate of Policy and Advocacy at College and Community Fellowship.