Broome County reacts to releasing inmates on probation

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BINGHAMTON, NY – New York State is releasing inmates held on parole violations from county jails across the state.

The releases have already begun in some portions of New York including the Utica and Rochester areas.

Broome County Sheriff Dave Harder tells NewsChannel 34 that he has yet to hear directly from the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, but he expects to before the end of the week.

Harder says 42 inmates out of the roughly 300 currently in the Broome County Jail could qualify for release.

He says they’re a mix of those who violated a specific aspect of their parole restrictions and those who are charged with another crime that would not have required cash bail had they not been on parole.

Republican candidate for Congress Claudia Tenney has blasted the process saying that the prisoners, some of them registered sex offenders, are being set free without any regard to their criminal background.

A spokesman for Governor Cuomo responded with the following statement: ‎”These releases were only for technical probation violations, not new offenses. We are fighting a pandemic and now is not a time for petty politics.”

“Not to get people alarmed but around the country, as you’re seeing all these small businesses that are shuttered, many of them are boarding up their facilities. I’ve seen some of that on the news because they’re worried about looting and what’s going to happen in the next 2-3 weeks or however longer we’re going to be in this shutdown,” says Tenney.

A spokesman for Governor Cuomo responded with the following statement: ‎”These releases were only for technical probation violations, not new offenses. We are fighting a pandemic and now is not a time for petty politics.”

The prisoner rights advocacy group Justice and Unity in the Southern Tier or JUST wants the county to follow step and release those being held on probation violations.

Those on probation typically have been convicted of much less serious crimes than those on parole.
Andrew Pragacz of JUST says the violations of probation can be even more minor, for offenses such as pot smoking or failing to make a restitution payment.

“These can land you inside. And, right now, those things are landing people inside, these minor offenses, which frankly shouldn’t be jailed in the first place, they are putting people at incredible risk,” says Pragacz.

When asked at his briefing today about releasing probation violators, County Executive Garnar said that he opposes the release of any inmates, but said that the decision is up to the District Attorney and judges and not him.

Both Tenney and Harder contend that the inmates are better protected from the coronavirus while in jail.

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