Does New York’s Bail Reform Law Impact Recidivism? A Quasi-Experimental Test in the State’s Suburban and Upstate Regions
This study estimated the impact of New York’s bail reform on recidivism in the State’s suburban and upstate regions. We compared re-arrest rates for people who had bail set or were remanded at arraignment in the first half of 2019 (before bail reform) with similar people who were released without bail in the first half of 2020 (after bail reform).
Estimated Impact of Eliminating Bail and Detention in Select Cases
- Overall, the results indicate that eliminating bail for select misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges led to little change in recidivism.
- Over two years, we found no changes in overall re-arrest and felony re-arrest; a slight increase in firearm re-arrest (2.7% vs. 2.0%); and a slight increase in violent felony re-arrest (9.5% vs. 8.1%) that became statistically insignificant when extending the follow-up period to 30 months.
Estimated Impact of Reducing the Use of Bail in Cases Remaining Legally Eligible
Across two research designs, releasing people who remained eligible for bail was associated with a 1 percentage-point increase in firearm re-arrest over two years, though the difference became statistically insignificant when extending the follow-up period to 30 months. Spanning measures of overall, felony, and violent felony re-arrest, no results showed that releasing people increased recidivism across both research designs; but, conversely, no results from either design pointed to reduced recidivism.
How did Pretrial Release Impact Different Subgroups?
- The elimination of money bail increased recidivism for people charged with nonviolent felonies, with recent criminal history, and with a recent violent felony arrest, while it decreased recidivism for people charged with misdemeanors and people with no recent criminal history.
- The reduced use of bail for legally eligible cases tended to increase recidivism among people charged with violent felonies and people with a recent arrest. The starkest and most consistent recidivism increases across both research designs were among people with a recent prior violent felony arrest and among people currently charged with VFOs who had a recent criminal history.
Study Results in Context
In contrast to the results from the current study, the findings published in March 2023 for New York City were generally more favorable to bail reform, finding an overall recidivism reduction for cases subject to mandatory release and no effect in either direction for bail eligible cases. However, the subgroup results from the two studies draw a consistent picture. Across all of New York State, bail reform tended to reduce recidivism for people facing less serious charges and with limited or no recent criminal history, but tended to increase recidivism for people facing more serious charges and with recent criminal histories.