ALBANY — A new Siena College poll released Tuesday found declining support for recent changes to New York’s bail law.
The new law, which eliminates cash bail for the wide majority of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, has come under intense scrutiny as courts have released people who would have remained in jail under the old rules. The bail reforms went into effect at the beginning of the year.
The poll found 49% of respondents said the changes were bad for New York while 37% said they were good for the Empire State.
Those results stand in contrast to last April, when 38% of respondents said the law would be bad for the state, while 55% said it would be a positive move.
The new poll showed waning support for the bail reforms among Democrats, Republicans and Independents. About 53% of Democratic respondents said the law is good for New York— an 11-point drop from Democrats polled last year.
The poll involved 814 registered voters in New York and was conducted by telephone Jan. 11-16. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Khalil Cumberbatch, chief strategist for New Yorkers United for Justice, said the poll shows there’s more work to be done on educating the public about the benefits of pretrial reforms.
“Unfortunately, months of fearmongering and misinformation have had an effect,” he said in a statement.
Backers of the bail law said the old rules unfairly punished poor people who could not afford to post bail, keeping them in pretrial detention for low-level crimes.
State Democrats have faced mounting pressure since the beginning of the year to make changes to the law. Republicans, who argue the bail law jeopardizes public safety, have called for a full repeal. The law also recently received criticism from Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Some leading Democrats have signaled they are open to making changes to the law.
But State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said this month that he wants to let the reforms play out without changes. He urged people to be patient.
On a separate topic, 58% of respondents supported legalizing recreational marijuana use, according to the poll.
It remains to be seen if Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget will include a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults.