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Hochul responds to bail reform criticism: ‘There is a lot of fear-mongering going on’

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaking in Auburn.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul highlighted some of the big proposals outlined in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech, while in Auburn this week. Hochul also addressed some of the more controversial challenges facing Cuomo’s administration. 

Some Republicans, district attorneys and county sheriffs across the state have been outspoken critics of criminal justice reform, which went into effect this month and includes the elimination of cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. They say it’s dangerous and creates chaos. But Hochul is defending it.

“There is a lot of fear-mongering going on,” Hochul said. “There is a lot of people exaggerating the situation. The vast majority of people, they are non-violent crimes, that’s the premise, they are misdemeanors. These are cases where in the past, if you had money, you walked, if you don’t have money, you’re sitting in jail. That is fundamentally unfair.” 

Hochul said as a result of the reforms, a number of people have been liberated, who would have been sitting in jail.

"Theses are innocent individuals until they've been convicted of a crime, and someone richer doesn't get off with a different system of justice," Hochul said.  

She said Cuomo's administration is listening to concerns. Cuomo said he’s willing to take another look at the law and work with the Legislature.

“This is being considered at the highest levels," Hochul said. "The Legislature just came back into session. It’s being looked at.”

A judge, also, recently blocked the governor’s ban on flavored vaping products, saying the executive branch overstepped its authority. Hochul said that’s why it’s on the governor’s legislative agenda.

“I believe the Legislature will understand the merits of what we did initially, but also how we need to work together to protect children from becoming lifelong addicts of nicotine,” Hochul said.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.