New York state Assemblyman D. Billy Jones met with law enforcement officials in Plattsburgh Friday to discuss potential reforms to the newly implemented discovery and bail reforms.
On January 1st bail and discovery reforms went into effect in New York ceasing cash bail and pretrial detention for minor non-violent crimes. It also accelerates the timetable for prosecutors to provide evidence to defense attorneys.
On Friday, North Country Democratic Assemblyman D. Billy Jones of the 115th district participated in a closed discussion on the new criminal justice laws with sheriffs from Clinton and Franklin County, emergency management officials, district attorneys and representatives from Customs and Border Protection. “We were having a frank discussion and an honest discussion about the difficulties in the new bail reform law and how we could change that law. People feel they’re less safe than they were before this law was enacted. There are some real cases here that we have come up with where tweaks in the bail reform could help law enforcement do their jobs.”
After their initial discussion the group presented their findings regarding the impacts of the new discovery and bail reforms. Franklin County District Attorney Craig Carriero, a Democrat, says there have already been several instances in his community where people have been released under the new laws and then committed new crimes. “We also had an incident over in Malone where an individual threatened our high school. The individual was arrested. The current bail law contradicts itself with respect to making a terroristic threat. In one part of the law it says it is a qualifying offense which people can be put into jail for and in another part it says they can’t be. Thankfully a judge sided with our argument and decided to hold him. But that’s the type of thing where if an individual is released after an incident like that you can imagine the public safety risk that you’re involving the public with.”
New Yorkers United for Justice has issued a fact sheet saying “similar reforms have already contributed to lower crime rates in states and localities including New Jersey, Maryland, and North Carolina.” Jones says New York’s reforms are more severe. “The element that these other states that New York took away they took away the judicial discretion. And I think we’ve all come an agreement in this room if we could get that element back into this I think it goes a long way to ensuring that these individuals can do their jobs and make our public safe.”
Clinton County Sheriff David Favro says there are good pieces in the legislation but it needs to be overhauled. “As I look back over the last several years of some of the people that were incarcerated here at this facility I often questioned why was bail set? It goes back to the point that the best person to actually make that determination is the person sitting at the bench. With this it’s kind of tying the hands and handcuffing, no pun intended, all of us to the point where we can’t make those judgement calls.”
Assembly Minority Leader Republican Will Barclay also met Friday with law enforcement officials and members of the Assembly Minority Conference in Syracuse. They too are calling for amending the discovery and judicial discretion in the bail reform law.