NYS bail reform changes officially go into effect

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Changes to bail reform that lawmakers passed through the state budget in April took effect Thursday.

Some said the changes don’t go far enough. Meanwhile, others said they will result in more people in jails during a pandemic when social distancing in facilities can already be challenging. 

“The state of New York just rolled back our historic bail reform laws. These reforms meant that thousands more people were home with their families rather than in jail pre-trial during this pandemic. They meant that people maintained custody of their children, kept their jobs, and remained in their housing,”said Rodney Holcombe, Fwd.us NY Criminal Justice Reform Senior Associate.  

Holcombe said more incarceration isn’t the answer. 

“Jails and prisons across the state and across the country have proven that they are in-equipped to handle the COVID-19 crisis and that people inside are hardly given a chance to socially distance,” Holcombe said. 

Some of the tweaks passed through the budget made more high-level offenses bail eligible. That includes domestic violence felonies, additional sex crimes, drug offenses and crimes resulting in death.

In a statement, Republican Assemblyman Ed Ra said in part: “While these changes to bail reform represent a hard-fought legislative win for our Conference, there’s still so much work to do to promote public safety…”

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt argues the changes still don’t give judges enough judicial discretion and consider a person’s  “potential dangerousness.”

“After New Yorkers, police, prosecutors and most importantly crime victims stepped up to say bail reform must be repealed, Democrats failed to listen. The tiny band-aids put on a dangerous law that allows violent criminals right back on our streets do nothing…” Ortt said.

Meanwhile, some bail reform supporters said lawmakers should take action on additional criminal justice measures like elder parole and halting solitary confinement.

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