Assembly Minority Conference Continues Calls For Drastic Overhaul Of Criminal Justice Laws

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I,Ref-Pulaski), law enforcement professionals, victims and members of the Assembly Minority Conference continue to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to walk back misguided changes to bail reform laws that have allowed dangerous criminals to walk the streets of New York.

Following up the impassioned calls from victims who have seen the firsthand impact of these laws, Leader Barclay has again called on lawmakers to reexamine the policy as Majorities in both houses have been silent on the issue since the laws’ inception earlier this month.

“While Gov. Cuomo and the Majorities sat on their hands this week, new, dangerous criminals were being released every day from police custody putting New Yorkers at risk,” said Leader Barclay. “The governor has given a State of the State and Budget address since these harmful laws have gone into effect and while he should have used a captive audience to discuss a solution to this growing public safety crisis, he instead buried his head in the sand.”

The reforms, which went into effect on January 1, were presented as a way to improve bail procedures for low-level, non-violent offenders. In practice, the laws have allowed individuals to get arrested, go to jail, walk out and commit additional crimes within hours of their arrest. Law enforcement officials, criminal prosecutors, victims and the public have spoken out against the “reforms.”

“The number 1 responsibility of government is to protect its citizens. In New York, prosecutors and law enforcement have been doing that incredibly well. New York is the safest large state in America, and at the same time we have reduced our prison population by 30% in the last 15 years. Perhaps most importantly, our prison population on a per capita basis is the absolute lowest in the U.S.,” said Onondaga County District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick. “Against that backdrop, in a misguided effort to make the country’s best system better, New Yorkers have had ‘reforms’ foisted upon us. Let us acknowledge as prosecutors that some of this change has been good, but that far too much of it is dangerously flawed. Without name calling or fear mongering, please let us talk to each other, recognize the flaws and make sensible corrections in a timely manner to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Further, changes to discovery procedures leading up to criminal trials have also drawn the ire of the lawyers and investigators responsible for handling case evidence. New timetables have been called unworkable; especially considering the lack of funding provided to administer the changes.

“I truly appreciate Minority Leader Barclay’s leadership and am grateful for his efforts to undo the newly-implemented bail and discovery laws that now jeopardize public safety,” said Oswego County District Attorney Gregory S. Oakes. “The state has removed deliberation from the process and has imposed a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to serve justice or protect the community. We need to restore common sense to the process.”

“Although there was certainly a need for bail reform, this particular legislation was ill-conceived and poorly implemented,” said Oswego County Sheriff Don Hilton. “It has resulted in harming the very people it was designed to protect. There is no longer an incentive for opioid-addicted individuals to voluntarily enter treatment programs.”

“I have great concerns for the safety of our citizens with regard to the recent criminal justice reforms. Discovery changes are hampering investigations and delaying needed arrests,” said City of Oswego Chief of Police Tory L. DeCaire. “Bail reform has opened the door for repeated offenses and increased the risk of absconding. I don’t disagree that some well-thought out and carefully crafted reforms may be necessary but, by increasing the discovery demands and limiting discretion on bail as currently written, we are endangering our communities and putting the people we serve at risk.”

“This issue is not about politics, it is about public safety. It is important that everyone speak out and express their concerns about protecting their families,” said Cayuga County District Attorney Jon E. Budelmann. “These new laws not only impose unfunded mandates on local governments, but they have taken away our elected judges’ discretion. Our judges are prohibited from even considering bail on dangerous, repeat offenders with lengthy criminal histories. The courts should have the ability to set bail in appropriate situations for the protection of all our citizens.”

“The Bail Elimination Act has created a dangerous new policy that has removed much-needed discretion for judges and members of our law enforcement community. I firmly agree that no one should remain in jail due solely to their financial status; however, we must ensure that those accused return to court and that we keep dangerous individuals off of our streets,” said Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck. “I am hopeful that our state Legislature will recognize the immediate need to change this law, and work with law enforcement professionals to create reasonable and responsible reform to the bail system. Together, we can balance the rights of the accused with our public safety interests.”

“New Yorkers are facing an ongoing public safety crisis because Albany Majority politicians are too proud to admit they made a grave mistake,” said Assemblyman Gary D. Finch (R,C,I-Springport). “Rather than work across the aisle to reach consensus on a reform package that honors crime victims, protects our families and includes input from law enforcement, prosecutors and judges, Majority politicians are digging in their heels. It’s sad and it’s wrong. Public safety is bigger than politics. We need to repeal these laws before anyone else gets hurt.”

“We must equip judges with judicial discretion to hold individuals who may pose a threat to their community and themselves in custody pending their criminal trials,” said Assemblyman Robert Smullen (R,C,Ref-Meco). “Judges in upstate New York are elected, so they, and their decisions, are accountable to the people. This new system is unfair and dangerous, and I am demanding that it be adjusted to protect New Yorkers and prevent further damage.”

“We will continue to hammer the message to legislative leadership, the members of both chambers and to the executive office; these laws are dangerous and do not do what was advertised. This is fact,” added Leader Barclay. “These laws need to go back to the drawing board where they can be properly studied before anyone else gets harmed.”