New York bail reform efforts have taken the life of yet another Gotham resident, 30-year-old subway performer Jordan Neely.
These reforms, originally passed in 2019, have caused a wave of violent crime while tying the hands of judges tasked with setting bail and sentencing. Proponents of the law argue that its effect on crime has been nonexistent, despite repeat offenders “rack[ing] up nearly 500 arrests” since the bail reform measure was implemented, per the New York Post.
Neely, who was killed at the hands of Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old Marine veteran, was one of those repeat offenders. Neely was arrested more than 40 times over the past decade, as reported by the New York Daily News, including for the assault of a 67-year-old woman in the East Village in November 2021 and the attempted kidnapping of a 7-year-old girl in Upper Manhattan.
For the East Village assault, Neely pleaded guilty in February and was granted a slot in an alternative-to-incarceration program, agreeing to report to a Bronx treatment facility and stay sober for 15 months in exchange for reducing his conviction, per the New York Times. By the end of the month, he bailed on the program after two weeks, with a warrant issued for his arrest shortly after.
Without barriers imposed by Albany, it remains possible that a judge assigned to Neely’s case would have denied bail in favor of him being behind bars — or, more ideally, receiving treatment in a mental health facility. Neely, after all, struggled with drug abuse and a documented series of mental health issues that led to him being placed on a top 50 list maintained by city outreach workers.
Per the New York Post, 92 percent of New Yorkers believe that crime is serious statewide, while more than 70 percent of New Yorkers, including 76 percent of Democrats, are supportive of changes to the bail reform law that will provide judges with greater discretion.
Progressives, meanwhile, point the blame at New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who supported a third round of changes approved earlier this month that allow judges to factor “court compliance” into bail decisions. New York, however, still remains the only state that prevents judges from factoring dangerousness into their bail decisions.
The cost for progressives admitting their failure on the bail reform issue is high, but not as high as the ultimate price paid by Neely and other vulnerable subway passengers.
Leonard A. Robinson is a New York City–based journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @bylarobinson.