Assemblymember Frontus: Budget Brings Long-Overdue Criminal Justice Reform

Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus (D-Brooklyn) announced that the 2019-20 state budget includes sweeping reforms to help ensure all Brooklyn residents are treated fairly within the criminal justice system and have equal access to legal services.

“It is far past time that our criminal justice system must reflect the principles of fairness, transparency and liberty that we promise each and every citizen,” said Frontus. “While we still have a long way to go, these reforms and funding will help give New Yorkers the fair, unbiased justice they’re owed.”

The final state budget restores $4.38 million to the Legal Services Assistance Fund (LSAF) to support civil and criminal legal services grants, for a total of $15.2 million. The budget also provides $15.5 million to support legal assistance programs, which include:

  • $1.06 million for the New York State Defenders Association;
  • $1.1 million for Prisoners’ Legal Services;
  • $609,000 in domestic violence-related civil and criminal services support;
  • $600,000 for immigrant legal services;
  • $400,000 for Neighborhood Legal Services; and
  • $147,000 for rape crisis centers.

In order to hold law enforcement agencies more accountable, the budget also expands the requirement of law enforcement agencies to report on excessive use of force incidents, as well as provides that the state Division of Criminal Justice Services will develop a model use of force policy for police and peace officers, including correction officers.

Additionally, to protect more individuals’ privacy and help fight recidivism and discrimination, the budget limits the disclosure of arrest mugshots, unless their public release serves a law-enforcement purpose, and repeals the mandatory suspension of a driver’s license for drug offense convictions. By releasing mugshots to the public, New Yorkers can be exploited by online websites that charge fees to have the photos removed.[1] In many cases, these posts can get in the way of potential employment, even in cases when the charges may have been dropped or the individual was found innocent, Frontus noted.