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July 2022 exposed the abject failure of “Bail Reform” in New York State

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Zeldin attacker released on bail, Wellsville grave robber released on bail, Child pornographer in Steuben county released on bail

By Andrew Harris

Some things look good on paper, but we all know this isn’t sustainable.

Keeping low level offenders, non-violent criminals, the drug addled, and mentally-ill citizens “out of jail,” makes sense. Allowing repeat offenders, violent criminals, dangerous thieves, and drug dealers to avoid jail does not.

These three July headlines are prime examples of a public policy that has backfired.

This new approach to law enforcement seems to have had very little success. Maybe I am bias but it seems that legalizing marijuana has offered much more fairness in the law than bail reform. We stopped putting people in jail for most cannabis offenses. Notably the proliferation of cannabis sales in the state has not created crime issues, while a majority feel that bail reform has created crime.

The failures are daily and have immediate consequences. Serious criminals are “released on bail,” crimes are more brazen and re-offenders common. Committing a major crime in NYS doesn’t carry nearly the risk that it did just a few years ago.

Prior to the 2020 bail reform, when you attacked a sitting Congressman and a candidate for public office with a deadly weapon….. you didn’t get bail and you’d likely not walk free until arraignment, if at all.

Prior to the 2020 bail reform, when you are arrested for over a dozen felonies, robbed the graves of US veterans, and broken several other laws, you went to jail. Maybe not state prison, but you went to Belmont and had a huge bail number to minimize flight risk.

Prior to the 2020 bail reform law, possessing and selling child pornography put you in jail, likely in protective custody. Going to jail was the great fear for such sick individuals, now they need not worry about anything but a future court date.

Whatever changed, whatever the motive or desired outcome: This is not working. When those who knowingly commit crimes, understand that they will very likely be released for a future court appearance, the risk equation changes. Petty theft turns into home invasion style robbery. Harassment turns into assault and threats turn into domestic abuse. No need to think twice about landing yourself in the county clink for a week anymore. The cost of committing a crime has been greatly reduced, even eliminated in many cases.

Luckily in the case of the Zeldin attacker( I still say attempted assassin considering his words as he attacked,) the federal government was able to file charges but local law enforcement had little option but to release him.

Republicans, if they had their way, would repeal all bail-reform laws from the Cuomo era, and then some. Mass incarceration didn’t work either and cost society dearly, we can’t go back to that.

Democrats, seem to be ambivalent about the situation. Even though bail-reform comes from policy created largely by Democrats, party members can not honestly ignore the reality of increasing lawlessness. I haven’t seen any upstate Democrat openly criticize, much less call for reforming, NY “bail reform,” as we all now refer.

Let’s face it, Governor Hochul isn’t going to react to Lee Zeldin or Jim Allard or Tim O’Grady’s constant pleas for some sanity. She isn’t going to react to what Assemblyman Joe Giglio had to say recently:

“Our criminal justice system needs to be updated to protect our citizens, rather than criminals. This rise in violence is exactly what my colleagues and I warned of when bail reform was first introduced.”

Republicans can’t beat the drum any louder and have near total support from the law enforcement community. Democrats seem to be unwilling to join the band, or even acknowledge that their political foes are making a very good argument, buttressed by daily headlines.

Hochul and the NY State Democrats may listen to voices from within the party though. It is time for Democrats to acknowledge that the failures of bail reform are real and need to be addressed immediately. Powerful WNY Democrats like Shawn Hogan and Max Della Pia should be rallying the troops and demand a rethink of “bail reform.”

Taking that position would be politically wise and may help blunt the non-stop Republican finger-pointing at “NY Dems.” In upstate New York, Democrats have very little risk in doing so, and could even entice the moderate and independent voters. In the meantime, the state Democrats are allowing their failed policy to embolden and strengthen the state Republicans.

It will take Republicans who are willing to meet half way, but mostly, Democrats who are willing to admit bail reform isn’t working and demand legislative action.

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