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Michael Litman April 11, 2018

Is New York a Good Model for Criminal Justice Reform?

In recent years, there has been increasing discussion about the need for criminal justice reform across the country. High incarcerations rates nationwide have been problematic for decades, and many have called into question whether incarceration is truly the best response to some criminal offenses.

States looking for a model for criminal justice reform may want to take a look at the State of New York, which has seen a decrease in incarceration rates and crime rates after implementing numerous reforms.

Calls for Criminal Justice Reform Nationwide

While talks of criminal justice reform are nothing new, it is worth mentioning that President Barack Obama spearheaded the conversation about this type of reform during his first and second terms. Specifically, Obama and proponents of reform called for numerous changes in sentencing and re-entry to society for those convicted of crimes. For example, proponents of reform demanded such changes as:

  • elimination of discriminatory sentencing

  • sentencing regulation

  • “second chances” for first-time offenders.

Today, while most states have some sort of criminal justice reform act in place, very few states have seen significant reductions in incarceration rates and/or crime as a result. Thus far, New York has been an exception to the rule, which is why many states are now turning to New York as a model for further criminal justice reform.

What is New York Doing Right?

recent report released by the New York City Bar Association found that incarceration rates across the state have been dropping for many years following wide-sweeping reforms. By 2015, the state had the 12th lowest rate of incarceration across the entire country—and continues to enjoy the lowest incarceration rate among the 10 largest cities in the country.

Over the past 20 years, the state has lowered its local jail intakes by 50%—with 14% of that reduction occurring as recently as the past two years.

What Does This Mean for Criminal Justice Reform?

For proponents of criminal justice reform, this shows what can go right when sweeping reforms are implemented. At the same time, reducing crime and incarceration rates across the country may not be as simple as applying New York’s reforms to other states, as each state has its own unique needs. Furthermore, each state would need to overturn its current reform laws in favor of new ones, which can prove to be a legislative challenge—particularly in today’s hostile political climate.

In Need of New York Criminal Defense?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a crime in the state of New York, it is important that you seek legal guidance and representation as soon as possible. Specifically, you’ll want to work with a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with recent reforms in criminal law and who will operate with your rights and best interests in mind at all times.

At the Law Office of Michael D. Litman, PLLC, we provide criminal defense for those who have been charged with a wide range of crimes, including DWI, assault, weapons possession, and drug charges.

Having the right legal team on your side can make all the difference, especially when it comes to getting your charges reduced or potentially dismissed. To schedule your free case evaluation and consultation, be sure to give us a call us or fill out our online contact form. We’re here to answer any questions you may have and help you through this difficult time.


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