The Assembly Minority Conference
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I,Ref-Pulaski) and members of the Assembly Minority Conference called for an immediate repeal of recently-enacted criminal justice reforms that put New Yorkers at risk. At a press conference held today in Albany, lawmakers were joined by families directly impacted by the new bail reform laws, and law-enforcement officials who expressed serious concerns with the new requirements.
This is the greatest public safety threat Ive encountered during my time in the Assembly, said Leader Barclay. We were told these laws would apply only to non-violent crimes, but if some of the cases were seeing arent acts of violence, I dont know what are. The new laws turned our entire system upside-down. They have made it nearly impossible for prosecutors to do their jobs, hampered law-enforcements daily efforts and taken away the ability of judges to do whats best for the communities over which they preside. The time to revisit criminal justice reform is now.
In attendance at the press conference was Sheila Harris, cousin of Maria Rosie Osai, a 35-year-old mother of three who was struck and killed by an unlicensed, hit-and-run driver in Rockland County on Christmas Eve. The driver was immediately released without bail pursuant to the new law. Also at the event was Jennifer Payne, the mother of 22-year-old Sarah Tombs, who was shot and killed in April by her live-in boyfriend in Syracuse. He was charged with reckless manslaughter and released last week under the new law.
The reforms which went into effect on January 1 were painted as a way to improve bail procedures for low-level, non-violent offenders. In reality, they have literally turned into a get-out-of-jail free card for dangerous individuals. For months prior to the implementation, law-enforcement professionals, judges, district attorneys and members of the Assembly Minority warned state officials of the enormous challenges, unintended consequences and public safety threats.
Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio (R,C,I-Gowanda) said the problems with the criminal justice package recently passed are not limited to putting the public at risk.
These laws are simply unworkable from a legal and law enforcement standpoint, said Giglio. Judges and prosecutors alike are being asked to do things outside the scope of normal legal procedure. Judicial discretion is being assaulted by these laws and lawyers are being forced to conduct pre-trial discovery in ways that are unprecedented. This is bad policy that jeopardizes the integrity of the judicial system.
There was a need for criminal justice reform in New York state, but what we have now went way past that. These are not reforms. These laws crush the very people we are supposed to take care of, said Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen. I call on the governor and the Legislature to examine these laws and the impacts we are seeing every single day. I ask the people who can change these laws to do better for our victims and witnesses.
In the first 15 days of 2020, we have seen the reality of these reforms. This can no longer be dismissed as fear mongering, this is fact, said Rensselaer County District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly. Judges have been stripped of their discretion and have been forced to release dangerous criminals right back onto the streets. We need to work together to rethink these reforms to ensure public safety.
While bail reform is well-meaning, there is no doubt that these so-called criminal justice laws are having consequences in our communities that were never intended. Our lawmakers need to examine and correct the aspects of these laws that seriously impact public safety. Trusting our judges to assess the dangerousness of an individual before they are released back on our streets and roads is a common-sense first step, said Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler. I hope that the Legislature takes the time this session to consider and implement meaningful changes to these ill-conceived laws. We owe it to the victims and witnesses of crimes.