New Report Shows Media Negligence in Coverage of New York Bail Reform Led To Rollbacks

Opponents of Bail Reform Found Willing Collaborators in Press Outlets Across the State

NEW YORK – A new report released today by finds that much of the coverage of New York’s historic 2019 bail reforms was inaccurate, dehumanizing, and biased towards oppositional stakeholders in law enforcement. This reporting, which began before the new laws even went into effect, ultimately set the table for rapid rollbacks of the reforms. Freedom, Then the Press: New York Media and Bail Reform highlights the mishandling of bail-related reporting which was characterized by three practices:

  • Disseminating inaccurate and misleading information,
  • Using dehumanizing language, and
  • Relying solely on law enforcement sources in their reporting.

The report details each of these practices with case studies and additional examples.

“This report is another attempt to identify, and hopefully correct, the media’s role in perpetuating false and fearful narratives around criminal justice reform,” said Laura Bennett, Research and Policy Manager for Criminal Justice Reform. “Reckless reporting on criminal justice issues has historically driven mass incarceration, and, in New York, it directly contributed to the rollback of bail reforms and the resulting rise in the statewide jail population.”

Since the rollbacks took effect, the number of people held in jail pretrial has increased by 31% during a deadly pandemic. In fact, without intervention, New York’s pretrial population is on pace to exceed its size on January 1, 2020, the day when the original bail reforms took effect.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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