VOCAL-NY Statement in response to NYS Democrats Proposal to Roll Back Bail Reforms

For Immediate Release
Contact: Nick Encalada-Malinowski 347-259-4835 / nick@vocal-ny.org
February 12, 2020
In response to reports that the New York Senate Democrats are working on a proposal to add judicial discretion for remand in the pre-trial process, VOCAL-NY released the following statement, attributable to VOCAL-NY Community Leader Roger Clark.
“Judges in New York State have always treated Black people worse than White people regardless of the charges — this proposal gives them a license to discriminate and lock up more Black people in jail. I can’t believe that Democrats want to do that. If they think this is going to help their elections they are crazy. This is going to discourage young people, Black people and progressives from voting at a time when we need huge changes here in New York and at the Federal level,” said Roger Clark, community leader at VOCAL-NY. 

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VOCAL-NY Statement in response to DAASNY’s Participation in all-White Law Enforcement Rally in Albany

For Immediate Release
Contact: Nick Encalada-Malinowski 347-259-4835 or nick@vocal-ny.org
February 3, 2020

Following DAASNY’s Participation in an all-White Law Enforcement Rally in Albany yesterday, VOCAL-NY released the following statement, attributable to Civil Rights Director Nick Encalada-Malinowski.

New York, NY — Today we are calling on so-called progressive prosecutors across New York State to leave the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY), which continues to rally against any meaningful criminal justice reform and on Tuesday sunk to a new low by standing arm in arm with the creators and moderators of a pro-jail Facebook group that has welcomed avowed white supremacists into their midst.

The rally yesterday and the associated campaign, is not participating in a policy debate on criminal justice issues. This campaign is Republicans and cops exploiting bail reform — by playing on racialized fears that are imbedded into core American cultures — as an issue in order to gain political power. That so-called progressive prosecutors are complicit in this, and are supporting Hoovler’s participation, is shameful.

The rally also featured uniformed police officers threatening Democratic legislators that they would be voted out of office. Is this the position of all District Attorneys in New York State?

DAASNY, the prosecutor’s lobbying group, consistently opposes reforms in order to maintain the power of their constituents — individual prosecutors — at the expense of due process and justice. These actions are incompatible with any definition of the word “progressive” or render the term entirely meaningless.

DAASNY is led by David Hoovler, a Republican and an NRA member.

Earlier this year San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Salazar left the California District Attorneys Association; Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner left Pennsylvania’s group in 2018.

The list of District Attorneys that have described themselves as progressive includes, but may not be limited to:

Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, Bronx DA Darcel Clark, Queens DA Melinda Katz, Albany County DA David Soares & Ulster County DA David Clegg.

Background on our campaign: follow #DumpDAASNY on Twitter, or read:

  • District Attorneys Association a roadblock to reform.
  • Step away from DAASNY.
  • Whether candidates would join DAASNY or not became a flashpoint in the most recent NYC District Attorney race in Queens.


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***For Immediate Release***
February 6, 2020
Contact: Nick Encalada-Malinowski 347-259-4835 / nick@vocal-ny.org


After Nassau County Forced to Retract, VOCAL-NY Condemns on-going Law Enforcement and GOP misinformation campaign targeting recently enacted criminal justice reforms

Calls on media to immediate cease single-source reporting from law enforcement


New York, NY — On Tuesday evening Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder attempted to intentionally link a horrific tragedy — the death of Wilmer Maldanado Rodriguez — to recently enacted criminal justice reform, only to retract this correlation after pressure given the egregious falsity of their claim.

Early coverage of the incident in both Newsday and the New York Times repeated false information from law enforcement connecting the death to reforms only to later update the stories after readers alerted them to the obvious untruths they were publishing.

Today we condemn law enforcement’s intentional campaign of fear and misinformation as well as the activities of the New York State GOP which has sought every opportunity to exploit tragedy for their own political gain with a total disregard for the facts. This cynical approach has been effective because media outlets continue to simply report what law enforcement says without any scrutiny at all. This has led to a tremendous amount of disinformation being disseminated through the media targeting in particular, recently enacted criminal justice reforms.

We are calling on every media outlet in New York State to immediately cease single-source reporting on any criminal justice issue when that source is law enforcement. Law enforcement have shown over and over again that they will intentionally mislead the media and the public to serve their own political interests and power.

Despite the retractions from law enforcement officials, the social media accounts of the Nassau County Police Department and Senate Republicans continue to display statements about Rodriguez’s death that they know are untrue.

This incident falls within an on-going pattern of deceit from law enforcement, which is grossly misleading the media, legislators and the public routinely in an effort to stoke fear around bail reform in hopes of parlaying that to political gains at the ballot box this fall.


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VOCAL-NY Leaders Across the State Respond to DA Attacks on Bail Reform

For Immediate Release

Contact: Nick Encalada-Malinowski 347-259-4835

November 21, 2019

 In response to District Attorneys’ disingenuous effort to undermine recently passed bail reforms, VOCAL-NY released the following statements from our members

“When the pre-trial reforms passed in the 2019 budget, I can’t explain the victory I felt inside me – inside my community. For far too long, New Yorkers like me and my family have been criminalized without convictions. We have served time for offenses we did not even commit. I served time for not having the same amount of money as others. Bail reform is crucial to civil rights in New York state. Bail reform is crucial to respecting the U.S. constitution saying that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise.  For District Attorneys to try to roll back these crucial changes at this point is incredibly wrong, dehumanizing, and is a blatant attack on low to no-income communities and people of color across New York State. We deserve equitable justice in New York State and DAs should not have the power to take that away. They have already taken FAR too much from our communities,” said Leonard Thomas, an Albany resident and Community Leader at VOCAL-NY.

“In the state of New York – in the state where the Statue of Liberty resides, we believe in fairness, justice, and equity. District Attorneys have been abusing their power for decades to criminalize and lock-up too many people. I should know as I was one of them. Historically, no part of the criminal justice system in New York has been restorative in nature. Now that we’ve won life-changing policies to level the playing field for those accused, to no surprise — District Attorneys are yet again abusing their power to try to roll back these reforms that are needed so badly throughout the state. We refuse to stand for it and will not accept this attack on the critical reforms that we so desperately need in order to restore the moral fabric of our communities,” said Keith Gillman, Westchester resident and Community Leader at VOCAL-NY. 

“The people of Rochester believe in fairness and justice. For far too long District Attorneys have abused their power to lock us up, at great expense, in particular, to people of color in our City. It’s no surprise to see them fear-mongering today in order to maintain a system that the vast majority of New Yorkers agree is racist and desperately in need of reform. If the prosecutors actually cared about public safety, and not just their own power, they would have been fighting with us to end homelessness and eradicate poverty, but of course in that struggle they have been nowhere to be found,” said the Community Leaders in the Rochester Chapter of VOCAL-NY.

“Jack Ryan is on his way out and we don’t care what he has to say about anything. We want to hear from Melinda Katz,” said Carl Stubbs and Jon MacFarlane, Queens residents and Community Leaders at VOCAL-NY.

“The law says you are innocent until proven guilty. But in New York State you are guilty until you can prove you are innocent. You are locked up, thrown in jail until they decide what happens next. You have no rights. You are their property from the time they handcuff you to the time you are released. And most times you are not released because you can’t afford the bail,” said Ronald Dennis and Kellani Rozelle, Syracuse residents and Community Leaders at VOCAL-NY.


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STATEMENT: Advocates Urge Legislature to Remain Until All Bills Promised a Vote Get One


Contact: Paulette Soltani, 775-340-2359, paulette@vocal-ny.org

Advocates Urge Legislature to Remain Until All Bills Promised a Vote Get One

Advocates have trusted legislators who promised them a vote on life-or-death legislation before the session closes.  In a statement signed by 7 groups, they say that legislators cannot spend the next six months at home until those votes are counted.

New York, NY (June 20, 2019)—A host of bills–some which have been on the calendar for nearly a week–almost all guaranteed passage, may not get a vote if the legislature wraps up tonight as predicted.  In response, the following groups have released the following joint statement: Citizen Action of NY, Communities United for Police Reform Action Fund, Drug Policy Alliance, JustLeadershipUSA, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, VOCAL-NY

“Daily over the past several weeks, New Yorkers from all over the state have made the journey to the Capitol daily, waiting to hear if legislation that could save and improve their lives–and the lives of their loved ones–would pass in the wake of the ‘Blue Wave.’  Now, we are hearing many say that time is running out–that many legislators are tired, and so we may have to wait until next year for urgently needed legislation. Bills with broad support are pending to expand lifesaving treatment to those struggling with an opioid use disorder; to stop suffering for those locked away in solitary confinement; to see the disciplinary records of police who are sworn to protect us; to be able to show up for a court appearance without fear of Immigration and Customs Enforcement picking them up; to attend school without fear of racially-disparate suspensions; and to simply walk around as a trans or gender-nonconforming person unharrassed by discriminatory policing.”  

“Legislators have had six months to make good on their promises to get this done.  If they have not been able to do it yet, it is their fault alone–and they should remain in Albany until every bill gets a fair vote.  By adjourning any minute before then, Democratic leadership is leaving critical bills on the table that we know have the votes to pass and would transform the lives of millions of New Yorkers.  All these bills must be voted on in this session.”




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New York State Senate Paves Way for Universal Access to LifeSaving Treatment, Activists Urge the Assembly for Immediate Passage


June 12, 2019

Contact: Jasmine Budnella, 720-480-5262, jasmine@vocal-ny.org

New York State Senate Paves Way for Universal Access to LifeSaving Treatment, Activists Urge the Assembly for Immediate Passage

In response to the NYS Senate’s passage of the three bills that will lay the foundation to Universal Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to many New Yorkers–for those on Medicaid and those incarcerated–VOCAL-NY has released the following statement attributable to Jasmine Budnella, Drug Policy Coordinator.

“Today, the New York State Senate took historic action against our state’s devastating overdose crisis that will save countless lives, and ensure the most marginalized New Yorkers will not be denied access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT).  The passage of these bills voiced to the thousands of families in mourning, and the thousands of New Yorkers who have experienced tortuous withdrawals in jails and prisons across the state–they are seen, they are heard, and they will no longer be forgotten or denied lifesaving treatment.

The Assembly must ensure that the most marginalized New Yorkers– from the Bronx to Buffalo, from county jails to upstate prisons–are worth saving and must be able to access MAT. The Assembly has the moral obligation to fulfill the commitment the Senate made today. In this historic moment, it will not be lost on New Yorkers or their families if the Assembly fails to move the state towards saving lives.”



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VOCAL-NY Reacts to Rent Proposal and Vows to Continue Fight for Housing Justice

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Contact: Paulette Soltani, 775-340-2359, paulette@vocal-ny.org

VOCAL-NY Reacts to Senate, Assembly Proposal on Tenant Protections, Vows to Continue the Fight for Housing Justice for All New Yorkers

New York, NY – in response to the two-house deal on rent reforms announced by the State Senate and Assembly, VOCAL-NY released the following statement, attributable to Nathylin Flowers Adesegun, community leader at VOCAL-NY and homeless New Yorker.

“After years of rising homelessness across New York State, the Senate and Assembly have come together to pass a housing proposal that centers Black and brown low-income New Yorkers. VOCAL-NY stands with the Housing Justice for All Coalition and the State legislature for taking these critical steps to end displacement, harassment and injustice against vulnerable tenants across our state. As someone who became homeless at 70 years old by being evicted from my rent-stabilized apartment, I believe this bill would have helped me.”

“With 89,000 people living in homeless shelters, this bill signals that New York State will not continue to function under the influence of the real estate lobby.The housing movement is taking back its power to protect tenants from losing their homes and to ensure that formerly homeless people never face displacement again. We are calling on Governor Cuomo to sign the bill.”

“We are proud to stand with tenants, housing activists, homeless New Yorkers, legislators, and all others who believe that housing is a human right. While these reforms cannot be understated, we know there is more work to do in our state to ensure that everyone has a safe and permanent home. With the Housing Justice for All Coalition, we will continue to fight for no-cause evictions, the elimination of IAIs and MCIs, the passage of Home Stability Support, and more, so that every New Yorker can finally be stably and safely housed in our state.”

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Advocates Demand that Democratic Leadership Deliver on Progressive Promises


Contact: Yatziri Tovar, 917-771-2818, Yatziri.tovar@maketheroadny.org

Paulette Soltani, 775-340-2359, paulette@vocal-ny.org

Black and Brown Communities Lay Out Must-Have Policies to Cuomo, Heastie, Stewart-Cousins for End of Legislative Session

Call on Cuomo to Stop Efforts to Divide-and-Conquer Legislature, Urge Heastie and Stewart-Cousins to Deliver on the Progressive Agenda that Put Them in Power

New York, NY (June 3, 2019)—With just three weeks remaining in New York’s state legislative session, leading community organizations representing Black and Brown working-class people across the state today laid out their must-have policy priorities. The following statement to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was signed by the following groups and statewide coalitions: Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, Community Voices Heard, Drug Policy Alliance, Housing Justice for All, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, Urban Youth Collaborative, and VOCAL-NY.

“Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie, and Leader Stewart-Cousins: Black and Brown communities across the state are deeply suffering. From the affordable housing crisis that makes displacement and homelessness a daily reality to immigrant families being torn apart to the mass criminalization and incarceration of our loved ones, young and old, we are hurting badly. We write to demand that the three of you, as the leaders of state government, take urgent action before the end of the legislative session to address these needs. In particular, we submit to you the following policy proposals that must be adopted before you adjourn in June:

  • Rent: New York must pass all nine bills in the Housing for All Platform to expand and protect tenants’ rights across the state, including good cause eviction legislation that would ensure all tenants have basic protections;

  • Marijuana: New York must legalize the adult use of marijuana to stop the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and to create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry rooted in racial and economic justice, which will generate tens of millions in tax revenue and over ten thousand new jobs;

  • Driver’s Licenses: New York must restore access to driver’s licenses for all qualified drivers, regardless of immigration status;

  • Climate Justice: New York must pass the Climate and Community Protection Act to ensure the strongest enforceable renewable energy standard, and a just transition for front-line communities;

  • School to Prison Pipeline: New York must pass the Safe and Supportive Schools Act to end school push out of students of color and keep students in classrooms and out of the criminal justice system;

  • Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability: New York must pass the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, repeal 50-a, and complete Parole Reform; and

  • Fair Elections: With big money in politics often impeding legislation that would benefit working-class people of color, a diverse, pro-public financing commission on campaign finance should be seated without further delay, and the Legislature should introduce bills this session to prepare to address any Commission shortcomings.

“In the weeks to come, our members will have a continuous presence in Albany and in districts across the state to ensure that these bills are passed before the end of session. We urge you to work together, as leaders committed to improving the lives of all New Yorkers, and with us as partners in these critical efforts and ensure they become law.

“Governor Cuomo, we demand that you cease your reckless efforts to block and water down these issues, and call on you to finally listen to our communities. We urge you to allow the legislature to do its job and legislate, rather than undermining and threatening legislators and shamelessly attacking the Senate. We see, and are appalled by, your crude attempts to divide and conquer the legislature. Stop getting in the way of justice for our communities.

“Speaker Heastie and Leader Stewart-Cousins, we urge you to focus your efforts on reaching agreements between legislators. We are confident that each of the policies enumerated above has sufficient support to pass your respective legislative chambers and become law, providing enormous benefit to our communities.

“In the beginning of this legislative session, both of you led efforts to pass important legislation, including laws to safeguard women’s reproductive health, advance voting rights, ensure equal access to higher education for immigrant youth, overhaul a discriminatory pretrial legal system, and more. These new laws showed how new leadership in Albany can uplift and center the lives of New Yorkers that have been not only ignored but denied basic rights and protections. But, following years of obstruction by the Senate Republicans and Governor Cuomo, and with a white supremacist in the White House targeting our communities, we must go much further.

“Your party controls both chambers of the legislature because your members won support in their communities–and especially in working-class communities of color–by supporting bold, progressive legislation. Now is the time to follow through, proceed to floor votes on these proposals, and turn them into the law of the land, so that New York can stand as a beacon of respect and dignity for all.”


Available for further comment:

  • Marijuana Legalization: Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director, Drug Policy Alliance, 646-209-0374, KFrederique@drugpolicy.org
  • Drivers Licenses: Javier H. Valdes, Co-Executive Director, Make the Road New York, 917-679-2971, Javier.Valdes@maketheroadny.org
  • Rent: Jonathan Westin, Executive Director, New York Communities for Change, 917-637-9501, jwestin@nycommunities.org
  • Safe & Supportive Schools: Rosemary Rivera, Co-Executive Director, Citizen Action of New York, 585-520-6542, rrivera@citizenactionny.org
  • Climate & Community Protection Act: Lisa Tyson, Director, Long Island Progressive Coalition, 516-749-5074, ltyson@lipc.org



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Advocates Slam Senate Democrats Unanimous Passage of Deadly Republican-Era Fentanyl Bill


Contact: Jasmine Budnella, 720-480-5262, jasmine@vocal-ny.org; Dionna King, 646-481-3127, dking@drugpolicy.org

In response to the NYS Senate unanimously (57-0) passing a bill to schedule fentanyl as a schedule I substance in the NYS Penal Law (S1652A) to facilitate the criminal prosecution of individuals for the possession or sale of a fentanyl analogue–and stating that an individual can commit a crime “knowingly” even if they do not have knowledge of the exact chemical structure of the fentanyl analogue, VOCAL-NY and Drug Policy Alliance have released the following statement attributable to Jasmine Budnella, VOCAL-NY Drug Policy Coordinator and Dionna King, Drug Policy Alliance Policy Manager.


“The passage of S1652A proves that the blue wave that put the Senate Democrats in power  is useless to the families across the state who have lost their loved ones to a preventable overdose, or to the thousands more who are suffering with a substance use disorder. We have heard for weeks that New York State Senate is suffering from ‘criminal justice fatigue,’–puzzling given that passing legislation, including to repair the harms of the mass incarceration era, is a job that they asked to do. We have been told that our decade-long efforts to pass lifesaving bills are unlikely, even in the midst of the deadliest overdose crisis ever.  And yet, the Senate has no trouble unanimously passing a failed drug war bill that helps no one and perpetuates harm and death.

Not only did advocates work to block this Republican-era legacy policy from being included in the NYS budget, we spent time educating the Senate on how scheduling fentanyl will increase incarceration, further criminalize a public health issue, undermine lifesaving policies like the Good Samaritan Law, and will inevitably increase overdose deaths across New York.  We’ve waited far too long for the Senate to be Democratic controlled, only to be fighting the same tired and deadly policy proposals that the Senate Republicans gave us for years.

Instead of passing counterproductive and archaic bills, New York State can lead by passing bills that are proven to save lives:

  • S2161/A833A (Bailey/Rosenthal): Expand Medication Assisted Treatment to all NYS Prisons and Jails
  • S5935/A7246A (Harckham/Rosenthal): Establishes that all FDA approved forms of medication assisted treatment prescribed for alcohol and opioid dependence shall be covered by Medicaid available under the preferred drug program
  • S4808/A2904 (Harckham/Quart) Amends the insurance law, in relation to prohibiting certain insurance policies from requiring prior authorization for certain medications used in the treatment of substance use disorders; and to repeal certain provisions of such law relating thereto
  • S875/A1634 (Rivera/Gottfried): Decriminalization Syringes and Expand Access to Public Health Tools”



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Gravity Knife Sanctions Finally Lifted, Formerly Incarcerated Advocates Rejoice


Contact: Nick Encalada-Malinowski, 347-259-4835, nick@vocal-ny.org

In response to Governor Cuomo’s signing of Assembly Bill 5944, removing criminal sanctions associated with possessing gravity knives, VOCAL-NY released the following statement, attributable to VOCAL-NY Community Leader Mark Moses.

“As someone who was arrested and spent time in jail for carrying a knife I used as a construction worker, I think this law should have been repealed long ago. That said, I’m glad the Governor finally signed this law so that others coming up behind me don’t need to go through what happened to me.”

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