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State lawmakers won't revise criminal justice reforms despite concerns from counties

New York State Senate

The leader of the New York state Senate said lawmakers will not revise criminal justice reforms that will result in an end to most forms of cash bail beginning in January.

District attorneys and county sheriffs have complained that and end to cash bail for most crimes will make the state more dangerous and that they don’t have enough funding or staff to comply with new laws that will require them to hand over evidence in 15 days evidence they’ve gathered against people accused of crimes.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said the laws were changed because the criminal justice system treats poor people and people of color unfairly.

"There comes a point where you’re criminalizing poverty," Stewart-Cousins said. "It’s about justice." 

The Senate Leader said she’s not averse to "tweaking" the laws in the future if needed, and said she hears the requests of district attorneys who say they need more funding to carry out the changes.

The head of the state’s Republican Party, Nick Langworthy, is not convinced that the new laws will work.

"Most New Yorkers aren’t going to know a damn thing about this until it become slaw on January 1st," he said. "When jail doors are opened, and the jails are emptying."

Langworthy said the laws were changed "in the dead of night" during the state budget process, and the public did fully realize the implications.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.