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Morning Spew

Carl Heastie Is Getting Ready to Send More People to Jail…Again

Yet again, New York Democrats appear to be buckling to demands for more regressive bail policy. And other news to start your day.

9:28 AM EDT on March 30, 2023

(Hell Gate)

There are only a few days left for our elected officials in Albany to deliver an on-time budget for the coming year, which means, if recent years are any guide, that it's time for feckless Democratic lawmakers to roll over and capitulate to our governor's demand to backslide yet again on the state's bail laws. 

They did it in 2020, when the extremely modest bail reform laws they had just passed the previous year were so new there was literally no data available to suggest a change was necessary.  And they did it again in 2022, when data was available, and showed clearly that bail reform is not responsible for increases in crime. 

This year, legislative leaders have been talking a good game, pledging to hold the line against Governor Hochul's demand that the law be changed to allow judges to put people in jail before they've had a trial, more or less whenever those judges feel like it. But for true Albany connoisseurs, the real heads with a discerning palate for broken government and craven leadership, this is all just the delightful anticipatory wind-up before the bass drops: Three, two, one, here we go

Yes indeed: Politico reports that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is, during the secret closed-door negotiations that constitute policymaking in the great state of New York, proposing language that, far beyond tweaking who is eligible for bail, would reverse decades of well-considered precedent to remove the fundamental legal requirement that judges impose only the least restrictive means necessary to ensure people return to court.

Here's an additional profile in courage: Hudson Valley Democrat James Skoufis, who, as negotiations continue, told Politico that "most of us are not willing to shut down the government over the least restrictive means provision of the bail laws…I'm certainly not." Standing up against a radical and ill-considered policy overhaul likely to send many more people to jail and drive New York back into the depths of mass incarceration—that's a hassle, man, and it distracts from important stuff that Skoufis wants to get to, which includes, Politico notes, a bill to remove the words "E Pluribus Unum" from the state seal.

Meanwhile, Assemblymember Latrice Walker, who authored the original 2019 bail reform legislation and has fought tirelessly, if frequently unsuccessfully, to prevent her party leadership from participating in its incremental dismantlement, sounds like she is on the verge of tearing out her hair. "I just cannot accept the attempt to play nonsensical word games with our laws," she told City and State's Rebecca Lewis. "I especially cannot accept anyone expanding the mass incarceration of Black and brown people in my name or in the names of others who share my experience and certainly did not ask for this." Walker added, "I feel the need to clarify that the Assembly Majority opposes any changes to weaken or upend the bail laws and subject more New Yorkers to the dangers of pre-trial jailing."

Of course, anything can still happen. Maybe Heastie will have a change of heart! Maybe Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will continue to stand strong! In the Schrödinger's box of representative democracy that is Albany, Hochul's plan to massively expand the detention power of the state remains both alive and dead until a few days from now, when we'll find out its fate a few minutes or hours before lawmakers are strong-armed into voting through a massive omnibus budget full of things they haven't had time to read. Stay tuned!

More news to start your day:

  • Cannot believe you guys got snookered into a whole new Trump news cycle when it turns out that he's not getting indicted anytime soon. Not us! Definitely not us.
  • An off-duty NYPD school safety agent has been arrested and charged with assault, criminal obstruction of breathing, and "attempted act in manner injurious to a child."
  • After getting caught lobbying the State Liquor Authority to relax its scrutiny of Avant Gardner, a club with close ties to his administration, Mayor Adams is pushing back, saying the SLA should have no power in NYC and these decisions should be made by his City government.
  • Things are getting rowdy in Albany, where it seems the head of an organization for people who think housing is for extracting money from people can't walk down a hallway between lobbying sessions without getting bullied by people who think housing is a human right.
  • In some really stellar Senate testimony, union-busting billionaire and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz took umbrage at being called a billionaire, arguing that while, yes, he has billions of dollars, he's a self-made man who didn't get any help from anyone, and besides, he grew up in publicly supported housing funded by the government to help people.
  • They should name this ferry The Vessel.
  • Carry on with your vengeful face-scanning, Mr. Musician
  • The switch to OMNY is going great, they just need another two years and another $34 million.
  • Also deserving of a little more sympathy: the finance guys, whose annual bonuses last year fell on average to a measly $176,700.

And lastly, a reflection on political resemblances:

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