Cuomo Criminal Justice Plan Aims at Helping Poor Suspects

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to ask the legislature to eliminate cash bail for many crimes and to speed the disclosure of evidence in trials as part of a package of proposals intended to make the criminal justice system fairer for indigent defendants, the New York Times reports. The governor plans to outline the proposals on Wednesday in his State of the State address. A package of criminal justice bills would aim to reduce delays during trials, ban asset seizures where there has been no conviction and make it easier for former convicts to get a job after leaving prison. Cuomo, a Democrat with presidential aspirations, is promoting the bills as “the most progressive set of reforms in the nation,” aides said. “For far too long, our antiquated criminal justice system has created a two-tier system where outcomes depend purely on economic status — undermining the bedrock principle that one is innocent until proven guilty,” Cuomo said.

Momentum to abolish or limit the use of monetary bail has been building, as critics have said that it discriminates against people who cannot pay. A New Jersey law effective last year has nearly eliminated cash bail by mandating that state judges release most defendants unless they are a proven flight risk or threat to public safety. The governor’s proposals are likely to be opposed by police unions, the bail bond industry, district attorneys and Republicans who control the Senate. The proposal addresses several aspects of the criminal justice system critics have long decried as unfair to the poor, chief among them the state’s cash bail system and its restrictive discovery law, which allows prosecutors to withhold important evidence against a defendant until the eve of trial.

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