Report from FWD.us analyzes how hundreds of inaccurate and misleading news articles published about New York State’s bail reform laws ignored multiple data analyses demonstrating the overwhelming success of the reform and, by doing so, helped fuel opposition to the law.
Since the January 2021 publication of the New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice study showing no rise in re-arrests for people released pretrial since bail reform went into effect, there have been at least 1,651 news stories erroneously linking bail reform and crime.
Today, FWD.us released a report, “Freedom, Then the Press, Volume II: New Data, Same Tricks,” detailing how misleading narratives around bail reform in New York State have continued to dominate the media, despite clear data showing that bail reform is not linked to an increase in crime. This onslaught of misinformation has led to two rounds of harmful rollbacks since the law was passed in 2019.
The report builds on the in-depth media analysis from the first volume released in April 2021. This latest volume:
● Summarizes numerous independent data analyses demonstrating bail reform’s success.
● Provides a new FWD.us data analysis showing no change in re-arrest rates for people impacted by bail reform since the passage of that reform.
● Analyzes how the disproportionate volume of articles falsely linking bail reform to crime influenced public opinion and public policy.
“We hope this report can shed light on the truth about the success of bail reform in New York and hold the media accountable for their role in shaping bail policy,” said Alana Sivin, Policy and Research Manager for Criminal Justice Reform at FWD.us and report co-author. “While many news outlets have unfortunately continued to peddle false narratives surrounding crime and bail reform, the facts show that bail reform has not resulted in a rise in crime. Our hope is that this report can help usher in a new era of more responsible reporting on criminal justice policies.”
Key findings include:
● A 2019-2022 analysis of media coverage showed that mentions of “bail and crime” were highest in the months directly preceding the 2020 and 2022 bail rollbacks and around the 2022 election. The deluge of “bail and crime” stories filled with misinformation and the resulting public polls no doubt influenced policymakers as they were deciding whether to limit pretrial freedom. During the quarter directly before the 2022 bail rollbacks were passed, there were nearly 400 articles published in New York state linking bail reform and crime.
● Across the state, re-arrest rates remained about the same before and after bail reform. Eighty-one percent of cases impacted by bail reform did not result in any re-arrest for any kind of crime while awaiting trial, a number that remained the same in 2019 and 2021.
● Since January 2021, at least four separate, independent analyses of New York City and statewide data have shown that bail reform is an effective, life-saving policy that is not linked to the tragic increase in crime.
● Since the January 2021 publication of a Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice study showing no rise in re-arrests for people released pretrial – the first of at least four studies showing no connection between bail reform and crime – there have been 1,651 articles published still linking bail reform and crime in the state. The majority of those (1,073) were published after The Times Union analyzed statewide data to show that people specifically impacted by bail reform have extremely low re-arrest rates for violent crime.
THE REPORT CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE