Bail Reform in Action: Pretrial Release Outcomes in New York State, 2019-2020

This report builds on previous Data Collaborative for Justice (DCJ) reports that assessed how bail reforms would have affected New York City cases in 2018 and 2019, had the reforms been in effect during those years.

Drawing on arraignment data for city and district courts in all 62 counties of New York State, the current report compares pretrial outcomes between 2019 (pre-reform) and 2020 (post-reform) both statewide and in each of three key regions (New York City, Suburban NYC, and Upstate). Suburban NYC encompassed Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester.

Key Findings:

  • Arraignment volume: From 2019 to 2020, the number of arraignments in New York State courts declined by 38%. New York City had the greatest overall decline in arraignments, dropping by 48%, followed by Suburban NYC by 31%, and Upstate by 26%.
  • Pretrial decision-making: Pretrial release increased from 74% to 83% of criminal cases not resolved at arraignment.
    • Bail-setting dropped from 24% to 15%.
    • Suburban NYC saw the greatest increase in release (from 70% to 85% of cases), followed by Upstate (62% to 75%), and NYC (82% to 87%).
  • Charge severity: Judges released considerably more people charged with felonies (from 41% to 60% statewide), although patterns differed by region.
    • Felony release rates grew 2.4 times higher in Suburban NYC (26% to 63%), 1.9 times higher in Upstate (26% to 49%), and 1.2 times higher in NYC (55% to 66%).
    • There were smaller changes among misdemeanors and violations: Even before bail reform took effect, judges released the vast majority of people charged with misdemeanors, both statewide and in each region.
  • Racial disparities: NYC judges became more likely to release people across all racial/ethnic groups, though stubborn disparities persisted, with release rates resting at 83% of Black, 87% of Latinx, and 91% of white people in 2020.