NY district attorneys have bail reform concerns

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As the clock winds down on criminal justice reform, district attorneys and law enforcement from across the state are speaking out about their concerns for public safety and the ability to prosecute criminals.

Beginning January 1, cash bail is off the table for people charged with most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony crimes.

Currently, the point of bail is to give people a financial incentive to return for court hearings. Soon, booking officers will need to ask the suspect for contact information, and they can be arrested if reminder calls and e-mails are ignored.

That’s something Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says is a problem for public safety.

“If your home is burglarized after January 1, that person has to be released the following morning,” he explained. “As abhorrent as it is to some people, safety sometimes means locking other people up.”

Safety is not the only concern.

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol said once certain criminals are released, they won’t have access to the mental health care they need.

“Whether it’s a mental health issue, whether it’s an abuse – a substance abuse issue – that we can make sure they’re getting some outpatient care that I can guarantee they can get in here,” he said. “But if they’re not, I can’t. We’ve got inmates in this facility right now that are receiving Vivatrol, which is a blocker to block someone’s desire to take heroin. If they can’t get themselves to that next shot that we can give them while they’re in there, where are they going? They’re going right back to the heroin.”

Plenty of leaders in the Capital Region have also spoken out against the bail reform law to NEWS10 ABC, including Albany and Rensselaer County District Attorneys David Soars and Mary Pat Donnelly, as well as Saratoga County Undersheriff Richard Castle.

In addition to law enforcement, agencies that work to put away animal abusers are also worried about cash bail reform.

The New York State Human Association said Tuesday that because all animal cruelty charges would fall under the new rules, people accused of extremely egregious acts toward animals can walk freely out of court until their next appearance.

The group said this could prevent witnesses from coming forward for fear of retribution or lead to further abuse going unchecked.

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