Hochul Invests $50M in Criminal Justice System
COMMENTARY

October 31, 2022by New York State Sen. Luis R. Sepúlveda
Hochul Invests $50M in Criminal Justice System
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a ceremony to sign a package of bills to strengthen gun laws on June 6, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced the allocation of an additional $50 million to the budget to assist with crime prevention, law enforcement and the justice system. This increase brings the budget’s total investment in public safety to $227 million.

The governor emphasized the use of $20 million of this new allocation for programs specifically for pretrial services. This investment is the largest in a generation. It is fair and necessary. It is these types of investments over the last two decades that have helped keep our youth out of jail and detention. For example, in 2001, in data provided by the national KIDS COUNT, 4,593 persons under age 21 were detained, incarcerated or placed in residential facilities in the state of New York. That’s a rate of 284 per 100,000. In 2019, the last year for which statistics are available, the rate of those under 21 who were incarcerated or detained had dropped to 837 or 54 per 100,000.

The justice system is an integral part of our state government. All New Yorkers are subject to the social contract that binds us to the justice system, and it has such a tremendous impact on our lives that we must all be vigilant and work together to improve it.

Historically, impoverished communities like the one I represent have paid for the justice system’s shortcomings. The cost? A detriment to the quality of life. If we calculate the total population of New York, we see that this additional $20 million for pretrial services translates to approximately 97 cents on the dollar per person per year. Not everyone will come into contact with the justice system. Not everyone will need the courts to operate efficiently, correctly and without bias. But what if the person who comes into contact with the system is you? Would you expect a system that is grossly underfunded to operate correctly and treat you fairly?

In all state responsibilities, such as education, mental health, public safety and others, we are in a battle to amass and allocate more funding, make public spending more efficient and allocate
more resources for communities that have historically been left behind. In a move to repair the chronically underfunded children’s mental health system, Hochul has pledged to invest $53 million in new services this year, a move I applaud because it will help our youth and hopefully prevent them from finding themselves in the criminal justice system.

The price minorities and poor communities have paid is very high and this price will be even higher if we continue to let the lives of many of our people remain bereft of any hope of
progress. When a young person in our community faces the justice system, and the system does not work as it should, their life is forever scarred and each path they choose becomes
more difficult for them to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. The allocations announced by the governor are a great encouragement in a process that needs
much more. It is time to measure the results of this investment. If I am right, it will prove that by investing in these services our people will have better opportunities and better futures.


Sen. Luis R. Sepúlveda, D-N.Y., was first elected to represent the 32nd Senate District in April 2018. His diverse district covers large parts of the south and central Bronx. He previously served for three terms as the assemblyman for the 87th Assembly District. Sepúlveda earned his bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University and his law degree from Hofstra’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law. He is one of two Latino attorneys in the New York State Legislature. His office can be reached by email here and he can be found on Twitter @nysensepulveda.

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