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Pretrial reforms spark dissent

Posted 11/26/19

ALBANY, NY — The New York State legislature in April passed criminal justice reforms that will significantly alter the system of bail in the state and will go into effect on January 1, 2020. …

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Pretrial reforms spark dissent

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ALBANY, NY — The New York State legislature in April passed criminal justice reforms that will significantly alter the system of bail in the state and will go into effect on January 1, 2020. The reform will eliminate bail for most misdemeanors and a few low-level felonies and instead most suspects will be released on their own recognizance.

The reforms have sparked a backlash from law enforcement officials across the state, and on November 21, the New York State Sheriffs Association, the State Associations of District Attorneys and New York State Association of Police Chiefs held simultaneous press conferences calling in lawmakers to delay the reforms.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said the need for reform is understood, but the reforms were drafted without input from law enforcement. “There is somewhat of a disparity, sometimes poor people end up in there for longer terms, people that can afford attorneys get released. We understand there needs to be overhaul,” he said. “Let the professionals have a seat at the table.”

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol hosted a news conference with about 40 officers from several counties. “I call upon the governor and the legislature to immediately convene and suspend the effective date of these new laws to give the criminal justice community, and certainly the public, an opportunity to have input on the needed changes to these misguided reforms,” Maciol said.
“None of us here would disagree that the criminal justice system needs reform from time to time, but certainly this is not a way to do it.”

The press conferences, however, sparked a response from defenders of the reforms. The New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement from policy counsel Nicole Triplett: “The efforts to derail much needed changes to our criminal legal system are a sad attempt to disrupt a pathway to justice. To suggest that we should maintain the status quo and continue to criminalize and warehouse people due to the size of their bank account is not a form of justice, and we must not heed to the handful of people who insist that it is. Lawmakers must continue to listen to the resounding calls from community members about the need to reduce our reliance on jails and end the criminalization of poverty.”

Rosemary Rivera, co-executive director of Citizen Action of New York, released this statement: “The new pretrial laws will address the state’s jailing crisis, bring more fairness and transparency to the system and advance community safety and wellness. For decades, mass criminalization and mass incarceration have been justified in the name of ‘public safety,’ despite the fact that extensive research and real-life examples show us that less incarceration is what actually creates greater public safety. Despite publicly claiming to support ‘reform,’ law enforcement has been doing everything in their power to subvert the will of lawmakers and a majority of New Yorkers statewide since the day these laws passed. Prosecutors and police are tasked with upholding the law—not undermining it by spreading misinformation to the public, and through fear-mongering in the press.”

Locally, District Attorney Jim Farrell—soon to be sworn in as Judge Farrell—has been critical of the reforms because they will allow some who commit what he calls violent crimes to be released without considering the danger they may represent to the community.

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