Kalief’s Law To Reform New York Pretrial Detention

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The New York State Assembly passed a law last week called Kalief’s Law in an attempt to reform New York’s speedy trial provision in order to make sure that people are not held in pretrial detention longer than necessary.

“For too long, the constitutionally guaranteed right to a speedy trial has been denied in New York. Our broken Rockefeller-era law does nothing to guarantee to a speedy trial for the accused,” stated New York State Senator Daniel Squadron, who cosponsored the bill with Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry. “In fact, it does the exact opposite, protecting a system that too often delays justice at the cost of defendants, victims and the taxpayers.”

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The law gets its name from Kalief Browder, a black teen who was accused of stealing a backpack. He spent over 1000 days in Rikers Island’s pretrial center with 700 days in solitary confinement. There was never a conviction in this case; in fact, the charge was dismissed by a judge.

Unfortunately, Kalief’s suffering at Riker’s proved too much for him, and he committed suicide in 2015 due to ongoing depression from his treatment in Rikers.

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The sixth amendment states that everyone has the right to a speedy trial, but there are plenty of loopholes for lawyers to play with as well as a massive backlog of cases. This leaves many to languish for years in jail before they are ever tried for a crime.

Activists who have been trying to get this law into place have spoken out in praise of it passing.

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“The bill’s passage in the Assembly by the overwhelming margin of 138-2 shows that our lawmakers are finally hearing the voices of the many organizations and thousands of activists who have been fighting for a more just criminal justice system,” said Glenn Martin, president and founder of JustLeadership USA. “We call on the Senate to take up and pass S.5998-A as soon as possible and make the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution’s promise of a speedy trial a reality in New York.”

“It’s clear that New York’s criminal justice system is broken,” added Gabriel Sayegh, the co-founder and co-director of Katal Center for Health, Equity and Justice. “This important legislation, sponsored by longtime reform champion Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry and passed by the Assembly under Speaker Heastie’s leadership, is a huge step in the right direction. It will fix a glaring problem in New York’s trial process, making it more fair and just, while saving taxpayers money by reducing unnecessary pretrial detention periods.”

Now that the New York State Assembly has passed Kalief’s Law, it is in the hands of the New York State Senate. No vote has yet been scheduled, and they have until this Friday to add this law to the law books of the state.