Erie County legislators have questions about potential bail reform

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Minor, non-violent crimes like trespassing and having an expired license require the accused to pay cash bail to be allowed to wait for court proceedings from home, instead of in jail.

Advocates of bail reform say that too often, that puts an unfair burden on low-income minority families who can’t afford to pay up.

As Bills Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas told the Erie County Legislature last week, defendants can spend weeks or even months in jail, waiting for trials for minor, petty crimes, often losing their jobs and falling on harder financial times, regardless of the outcome of the case.

Thomas also urged the lawmakers to consider how much taxpayers shell out to jail people who could be home under supervision.

But some lawmakers had questions about what bail reform would mean for the county.

Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams said “How are we, in Erie County, going to ensure that we have the financial means to sustain the program?”

Legislator Ed Rath said “We’re looking a potential cost savings, but we’re also looking at potential cost expenses.”

The bill that lawmakers are considering would ask the state to help the county with the shift in costs that would come with bail reform.

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