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    01.31.19 Professor Jocelyn Simonson Kicks Off Spring Dean’s Law and Policy Series by Examining Bail Reform
    Brooklyn Law School - Professor Jocelyn Simonson

    With more than 460,000 people across the United States confined in pre-trial detention on any given day, and Democratic control of the New York State Senate making criminal justice system reform more likely at the state level, Professor Jocelyn Simonson, co-director of the Center for Criminal Justice, addressed the question “What Comes After Money Bail?” during the January Dean’s Law & Policy Series program. Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton moderated the discussion, kicking off the spring 2019 series.

    Simonson has dedicated her scholarship to exploring ways in which the public participates in and has the potential to catalyze broader changes in the criminal legal system, including bail reform. She described the inequality and issues that exist in the current system, citing several sobering statistics and an article from the New York Law Journal cautioning that “any reform will be negotiated based on the finer details surrounding the issue.”

    “I want to talk about the finer details, rather than just the words ‘bail reform’ always meaning a good thing,” said Simonson. “They don’t always mean a good thing, no matter what your beliefs are, because they can mean very different things.”

    She discussed the various ways states use money bail (39 different laws at last count) and explained that New York is currently the only state where bail is set solely to ensure that someone facing charges will return to court, rather than for public protection, risk of harm to a specific individual, or other concerns.

    With activists pushing hard for reform, Simonson engaged the audience in a robust discussion about the many changes being proposed in New York and other states, including the idea of eliminating money bail entirely, and whether these ideas would effectively improve the system. She offered the cautionary example of California, where last minute changes in the state legislature led to the passage of bail reform legislation opposed by progressive activists on the ground.

    Toward the broader goal of ending mass incarceration, Simonson said, another narrative is a combination of divest/invest: “divest from using the criminal law to solve problems, and then invest in the same communities that you might be worried about in other ways, like education.”

    The Dean’s Law and Policy Series continues Feb. 20 with Professor Cynthia Godsoe speaking on the topic: Sex Crimes in the #MeToo Era.

    Watch the program here