Upstate New York Republican Legislator Proposes Bail Compromise, New Commission to Manage Judicial Discretion

ALBANY. The upstate Republican MP believes there is a path to a bipartisan bail compromise.

As Gov. Hochul argues with her fellow Democrats over her plan to once again amend New York’s bail laws in this year’s budget, Sen. Jake Ashby (R-Rensselaer) is proposing a major overhaul that he says said, will give the judges more freedom of action and will still remain at a low level. low-level offenders from imprisonment just because they are poor.

“Justice and public safety are not mutually exclusive,” Ashby said. “We can support and empower judges and law enforcement officials by recognizing the reality that rich and poor people have historically had very different experiences with our criminal justice system.”

Assemblyman Jake Ashby, R-Troy, is pictured in the Assembly Hall at the State Capitol on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, in Albany, New York.

The freshman senator, formerly of the Assembly, introduced a bill on Tuesday that would greatly expand judges’ ability to hold dangerous defendants before trial and eliminate cash bail altogether.

Essentially, the bill would give judges the ability to keep a defendant charged with a felony or certain misdemeanors if they are seen as a danger, while maintaining the bulk of the current cashless system.

The bill also calls for the creation of a new Public Safety Commission composed of law enforcement officials, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and individuals appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.

The team will be tasked with creating a risk assessment tool for judges, in consultation with the Division of Criminal Justice Services, based on data, arrest statistics and other factors.

In keeping with Hole’s belief that there is “inconsistency” in the current law, Ashby argues that the commission will help clarify the law’s original direction for judges classifying most felonies and some misdemeanors, including sex crimes, domestic violence and pressure on witnesses as a measure of restraint. having a right.

“It’s about taking politics out of the process and bringing in serious professionals to provide risk assessment advice, period,” he said. “It’s not about the color of your skin or the amount of money in your bank account.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks Monday in Times Square.

State bail laws have become a lightning rod for political controversy since the Democratic-led legislature approved changes in 2019 to limit pre-trial detention for most non-violent crimes and require judges to use only the “least restrictive” means of securing defendants return to trial. .

Hochul, who successfully negotiated amendments that expanded bail offenses in last year’s state budget, hopes to address the issue once again this year by removing the so-called “least restrictive” standard for major crimes.

Republicans and moderate Democrats, including Mayor Adams, have blamed cashless bail for the surge in violent crime and called for more leeway for judges, despite little evidence linking the two.

Polls have repeatedly shown that crime is a major concern for New Yorkers amid a resurgence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most Democrats, who hold overwhelming majorities in both houses of the Legislature, did not support Hohul’s plan to revise this year’s budget bail, which is due at the end of the month.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​(D-Yonkers) said last week that misinformation about the current law had sparked an unwarranted backlash.

“Violent criminals have always been eligible for bail,” she told reporters. “And that’s what I think people didn’t understand.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Some Democrats, opposing the Hohul plan, have called for new training for judges who may misapply the law or fail to set bail in certain situations, even if it is permitted by current law.

Criminal justice supporters and progressive Democrats argue that the governor’s approach will essentially undo the 2019 reforms that eliminated bail and mandated release for most misdemeanors and non-violent crimes.

“The governor’s plan only ensures that more blacks and browns are sent to jail before trial,” Assemblyman Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn) said during a virtual news conference on the topic last week. “And it ensures that more blacks and browns die on Rikers Island. This is not the future I want for New York.”

A bail sign hangs on the side of a bail business near the Brooklyn Courthouse and New York Jail.

Some of Ashby’s fellow Republicans have said they support Hole’s proposal, while others say they want nothing less than a complete repeal of the 2019 laws.

However, the legislator hopes that his alternative approach can gain support on both sides of the aisle.

“It seems that many participants are ready to compromise. Most people seem to agree that the amount of money you have should not determine whether you are at home or in jail,” he said. “Most people seem to agree that previous pre-trial reform efforts have not done enough to protect our families and keep the public safe. Let’s work together and fix this.”

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