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Community Classroom

Sunday, February 9 at 1 PM / FREE

Theme: NYS Bail Reform Law

“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”  –Zechariah 9:12

On January 1, 2020, New York State’s new bail reform law took effect, addressing two critical criminal justice issues. The new law eliminates cash bail for non-violent crimes and calls for open discovery, a policy that requires prosecutors to turn over all evidence to the defense prior to the start of trial. Both of these reforms seek to remedy a system that has caused poor defendants to spend months or even years in jail awaiting trial because they cannot afford bail. Furthermore, lack of open discovery has stymied public defenders in their ability to mount a defense. 

New York’s bail reform has been met with controversy. Opponents to the law argue that lack of cash bail allows dangerous offenders back on the streets, threatening public safety. Recent high profile crimes have fueled this fire. District Attorneys worry that open discovery will drain their budgets and discourage witnesses from testifying because informants are reluctant to cooperate with the prosecution if their identities will be revealed to the defendant. This potential risk is amplified when the defendant is out on the streets rather than confined to a jail cell, because no bail was required in their case. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that certain provisions of the law needed to be reviewed and perhaps changed. So far, legislative leaders are standing firm on keeping the law in place as it is. Caffe Lena’s latest Community Classroom will explore this debate.

Our discussion of NYS Bail Reform Laws will be led by Amy Jones and Clyanna Lightbourn.

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Caffe Lena Community Classroom features presentations by people with deep knowledge of a civic issue, with ample opportunity provided for audience questions, ideas, challenges and personal stories. The goal is to catalyze fresh thinking through conversation that is respectful, deep, empowering and unique. As Caffe Lena has long provided a stage where the stories of all people are honored, this program builds on the venue’s folk heritage with an understanding of real life struggle in today’s world.

 

The curator and sponsor of this series is In Our Name Initiative, an organization dedicated to civic learning and legislative action for social, economic and criminal justice matters. In Our Name is a national thought and training organization dedicated to the work of reconciling victims and offenders and finding more constructive ways to deal with crime and punishment.

MLK Saratoga shares Dr. King’s vision of peace and justice for all. They work toward this vision by promoting racial, social, economic, and climate justice. They use Performance, the Arts and Dialogue to create new ways of understanding and to build a more unified, inclusive community that is truly safe and just.

Amy Jones lives and breathes activism in all its forms. Serving as Community Organizer for Citizen Action! NY, she coordinates advocacy efforts around state legislation through a social justice lens. Amy heads multiple committee efforts: Women of Color, criminal justice reform, and reentry to action. 

Amy led the organizing efforts for Albany’s first-ever BlackOut Festival, commemorating the significance of Black August. She coordinates direct-giving for black and brown women in need, was instrumental in organizing the Albany Women of Color March in January 2019, and has moderated and sat on multiple equity and justice-focused panels locally and beyond. 

As a woman who was formerly incarcerated and has herself battled addiction, Amy is unwavering in her fight for freedom, equity, and treating all people with dignity and the utmost sense of humanity.

 

Clyanna Lightbourn is a Statewide Civil Rights Organizer working to end mass criminalization and incarceration of Black, Brown, and poor communities ravaged by unjust and racist laws. Clyanna has led a number of workshops about the school to prison pipeline and the ways in which companies profit from mass incarceration.

 

Hailing from Miami, Florida, Clyanna was a founding member of Black Lives Matter Upstate New York, a 2020 cohort of the New Leader Council in the Capital District and a proud Union College Alumnus. She is determined in her fight for freedom, equity, and replacing mass incarceration with restorative justice practices and a chance for redemption, transformative healing, and strengthening communities.