Counties struggle to provide pretrial services mandated by NYS bail reform

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ALBANY COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Counties are still struggling with New York’s new bail reform. The latest complication to come up – who’s responsible for setting up pretrial services and how it’s going to get done?

Pretrial services can range from addiction counseling to ankle monitors – anything to ensure a defendant shows up for their court dates. But without funding for the bail reform and all its mandates, Albany County’s District Attorney P. David Soares says the counties won’t be able to keep up with “the greatest expansion of the criminal justice system in the history of New York.”

“If you’ve witnessed anything in Albany County over the course of the last several days, it is people who are charged, some indicted, with the most violent and heinous offenses that are now walking the streets,” Soares says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

Anthony Ojeda, accused of his infant son’s overdose, ordered monitored and released Tuesday. Paul Barbaritano, accused of strangling and stabbing a woman to death, set free Thursday.

District Attorney Soares says even with all the time to prepare for New York’s bail reform, most counties are still struggling with what to do as defendant after defendant walks out of jail.

“What I find troubling is the fact that the Department of Probation has the same number of staff that existed in 2019,” Soares explains. “My own office, we requested 30 more staff members. We got nine.”

Soares says in Albany County, the Department of Probation now needs to pick up the extra duties of providing the mandatory pretrial services the new bail reform mandates. But the reform remains unfunded – raising the question how will counties provide all the counseling, contact, services, and monitoring devices they’ll need.

“I can tell you with 100% certainty and confidence that Albany County does not have enough monitoring systems for the volume of people,” he says.

Pretrial services are supposed to ensure defendants don’t skip out on court. Without enough of them, Soares says he’s concerned how much it will cost the county to constantly track people down.

“I have to make decisions as to what I’m willing to pay to have those individuals returned. I do that probably four times a year, five times a year. Now it’s going to be with every misdemeanor and every non violent felony,” he says.

Although Albany County has assigned pretrial services to the probation department, the reform doesn’t lay out a clear plan how the mandated services need to be provided. This means each individual county will need to come up with their own method of providing pretrial services.

Soares says rural counties without as many resources are likely to run into the toughest obstacles.

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