New York adjusts bail reform in state budget

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ALBANY, NY – Early Friday morning the New York State Assembly finally wrapped up passing the budget.

The legislature managed to get it done despite challenges due to the coronavirus.

And, one big issue they were able to tackle was changes to the state’s bail reform laws.

Our Capitol Correspondent Corina Cappabianca has more on the agreement.

The Governor said that while he was proud of the bail reforms the state made last year tweaks needed to be made in this year’s budget to improve public safety. 

And, so far there’s been mixed reaction to the changes.

((Andrew Cuomo, Governor))

It passed a lot of major policy initiatives that we should all be proud of- the nation’s first domestic terrorism law, it improved bail reform.

Some of the new bail reform changes passed in the state budget include making more high-level offense eligible for bail.

According to the Senate Majority’s Office this includes domestic violence felonies, crimes resulting in death, additional sex crimes and ‘high-level’ drug offenses. 

((Jeff Smith, Montgomery County Sheriff))

“… all the crimes that were added are certainly a benefit. That doesn’t mean that bail will be set but judges having the ability to have it be set if it’s necessary we think is important.”

An extra 40 million dollars will also be allocated to help implement the criminal discovery reforms. 

Sheriff Smith says it also gives the prosecution up to 35 days in some cases to provide the evidence to the defense.

((Jeff Smith, Montgomery County Sheriff))

“…Because as an agency that handles the 911 center it’s very cumbersome and problematic and financially difficult for us to upload all the 911 calls, the radio transmissions, the phone calls and to provide them to the other agencies throughout the county. 

Meanwhile supporters of the initial bail reforms who wanted no roll-backs say it will lead to an increase in people in jails and prisons.

In a statement a spokesperson with the Center for Community Alternatives said: 

“It is unconscionable that Albany played politics with the lives of tens of thousands of New Yorkers. Contrary to what Governor Cuomo says, the rollbacks passed today are not ‘improvements,’ instead they massively expand the number of people subjected to the horror and injustice of pretrial jailing.”

 Meanwhile others say the changes didn’t go far enough.

Assemblyman Dan Stec says:

“… Rather than listening to our district attorneys and law enforcement officials and fully repeal these laws, they put forth weak, half-measures…” 

Assemblyman Stec and Sheriff Smith also say they wish there had been more judicial discretion included to the changes.

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