Does New York’s Bail Reform Law Impact Recidivism? A Quasi-Experimental Test in New York City

This report examines the impact of New York’s bail reform law on recidivism in New York City. We sought to produce a credible analysis of the impact of releasing people under reform who would have otherwise faced bail or pretrial detention. 

Key Findings:

  • Eliminating bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges reduced recidivism. There were reductions for any re-arrest (44% vs. 50%) and felony re-arrest (24% vs. 27%) over two years.
  • For people remaining legally eligible for bail (most of whom were charged with violent felony offenses), reducing the use of bail through measures such as supervised release expansion or requiring judges to set the least restrictive condition did not affect recidivism in either direction.
  • The 2020 amendments targeted a specific subgroup of people whose re-arrest rates had increased under the original reforms.
  • Beyond the aforementioned overall takeaways, bail reform had varying recidivism effects depending on people’s charges and recent criminal history.

Want to learn more? Please read the main report, a summary, or a technical supplement explaining our strategies for constructing comparable samples of people respectively released under reform versus facing bail or pretrial detention.

This is the first in the Data Collaborative for Justice’s Bail Reform and Recidivism Series. Additional studies forthcoming in 2023 will examine recidivism impacts elsewhere in New York State as well as by using alternative “controlled interrupted time series” methods to test for system-wide shifts in re-arrest rates across all cases subject to mandatory release from the pre-reform (2017-2019) to the post-reform (2020) legal regimes. In 2024, the present study will be updated over a longer tracking period.