Count Councilman Rory Lancman as one of the progressive reformers who are dissatisfied with Albany after the $175.6 billion state budget was reached.
Lancman, a candidate for Queens District Attorney, stood outside the Queens Criminal Courthouse April 1 to slam the state Legislature’s failure to end cash bail, and reiterated his commitment to fully and completely end cash bail as Queens District Attorney.
He said the state budget’s “bail reform” still allows cash bail for those charged with “violent felonies” and some misdemeanors, which accounts for about half of those sitting on Rikers Island awaiting their day in court because they can’t afford bail. Additionally, nearly half of those charged with so-called “violent felonies” either have their charges dismissed or are acquitted outright, but Albany still thinks it’s OK to lock them up pre-trial just because they can’t afford bail.
“Of all the evils of our current criminal justice system, perhaps none is so sinister, and so easily remediable, as cash bail. We literally incarcerate thousands of people every year because they’re poor, punishing people before they’re convicted and forcing innocent people to plead guilty and get stuck with a record for the rest of their life,” Lancman said. “The Legislature’s failure to end cash bail is a travesty. As Queens District Attorney, I will never ask for cash bail, period.”
Lancman then singled out fellow candidate for DA, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
“Promises like Melinda Katz’s to end cash bail just for ‘low-level misdemeanors’ or ‘non-violent felonies’ are a sham, and a cruel joke on the poor and people of color who suffer under our cash bail system,” Lancman said.
Katz’s campaign released a statement the same day on criminal justice reforms in the state budget calling it “just the beginning,” and saying there is more work to do.
“Open discovery, the elimination of cash bail in most instances, and new procedures to ensure the right to a speedy trial are an important step in the long fight towards a more equitable justice system,” Katz said. “While these changes are a major accomplishment, there is still substantial work to be done. Eliminating cash bail altogether, ending the racially disproportionate effects of marijuana arrests through legalization and expungement, and enacting more policies to keep our immigrants community safe should still be a priority for our leaders in Albany.”
Katz and Lancman will face Judge Greg Lasak, public defender Tiffany Cabán, former prosecutors Mina Malik and Jose Nieves and attorney Betty Luongo if the June 25 Democratic primary.