Law enforcement officials and district attorneys from central New York joined in an effort across the state, to voice concern over criminal justice reforms, set to go into effect in January. They’re upset that they were kept out of the process when the reforms were passed by the state legislature, earlier this year, as a part of the budget.
The reforms include eliminating cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies and expanding the timeline for the discovery process. Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway said law enforcement and prosecutors had no opportunity to offer their expertise in crafting the changes.
“We are forced to stand here, after the fact, calling to the attention of the public, the legislature, and the governor, the serious flaws in these new laws; flaws which will create chaos in the criminal justice system, great expense to the taxpayers and most importantly, danger to our citizens,” Conway said.
Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said the changes will affect a number of different crimes, allowing defendants to be released during the pretrial period.
“Residential burglary, a robbery, assault third as a hate crime,” Fitzpatrick said. “After Jan. 1, a judge will have absolutely no discretion and will have to release the individual, regardless of his or her history of appearing or failing to appear, and regardless of whether or not they have any ties whatsoever to central New York.”
He went on to cite specific examples of notorious crimes in the Syracuse area, like aggravated vehicular assaults and some domestic violence, that would also be impacted by the new laws.
George Kunkel of Syracuse, who supports the reforms and attended the law enforcement press conference, said the fear mongering was on full display.
“They talked about the most heinous crimes they could think of, without talking about the hundreds, probably thousands of people that will be returned to their families, if cash bail is repealed here,” Kunkel said.
In a statement, the New York Civil Liberties Union said continuing to criminalize and warehouse people due to the size of their bank account is not a form of justice.