Suozzi criticizes Hochul on violence, wants judges to have more say

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Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Tom Suozzi at a Zoom press conference on Jan. 4.
Screenshot via Zoom.

Long Island Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Tom Suozzi held a Zoom call Jan. 4 to present his public safety policy, focusing on bail and social services.

The press conference was partially motivated by a recent report that murders in NYC in 2021 neared 500, a number the city hasn’t reached since 2011.

“It’s hard to even focus on this in the midst of all the other stuff going on with COVID right now, but unfortunately, when you’re the chief executive, you have to focus on a lot of different moving pieces,” said Suozzi.

He is demanding that Hochul adjust bail reform laws to give judges more power to remand someone after arrest based on their possible threat to public safety. Those who have already committed a crime often commit more once they are released, and Suozzi wants to stop this from happening. That policy is at the heart of a decades-long debate about the term “innocent until proven guilty.”

“We’re trying to reform the system, and we’re trying to make a better system. And I’m saying that we need to give judges discretion in the cases of where someone has a history of violent crime,” Suozzi said. “We need to take into account if somebody’s record has shown that person having a propensity for violence, and they’ve been arrested again, that we can’t let them out onto the streets again so readily.”

Suozzi’s statement came about two years into the sweeping bail reform that changed the state’s practices on bail and pretrial detention. According to analysis from the first year, there was a steep drop in bail setting followed by sharp spike in judges’ decision to set bail. The reforms’ effects have been greatly diminished. 

Suozzi acknowledges the justice that needs to happen for people in communities of color who are subject to disproportionate arrests, detention, and police presence. He said he wants to put resources in those communities to help with that. As he says in nearly every press conference, he describes himself as a “common sense” Democrat who wants both justice and public safety, not one or the other. 

Those who follow city politics have heard that from Mayor Eric Adams as well, who Suozzi repeatedly aligned with during the call.

“One of the great things about Eric Adams and his campaign for mayor that I supported so strongly as he always talked about [that] you can have justice, but you have to have public safety as well,” he said.

Adams is bringing back solitary confinement in city jails, a measure Mayor Bill de Blasio rolled back because of how crowded and unsafe the jails are currently. As a candidate for governor, Suozzi said Rikers specifically has major issues but likely will not close.

“Rikers Island is not going to close even if everybody agrees to do it for five or six years,” the congressman said.

“It was obvious to me there’s been insufficient investment in Rikers Island and improper management of Rikers Island for a long time,” he continued.

Should he become governor, Suozzi believes he has the experience to manage the correctional system better.