Advocates say criminal justice reforms are needed in NY

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A package of criminal justice reform is coming to New York State on January 1.

Advocates said reforms are needed despite opposition from prosecutors and police.

“Public safety is families being together,” Amy Jones from Citizen Action of New York said.

Jones is a bail reform advocate. She said she’s been arrested more than 23 times in her life. The formerly incarcerated mother said she spent about 15 years in and out of jails and rehabs.

She says she lost custody of one of her daughters about 20 years ago because she couldn’t afford a $1,000 bail.

“It was survival crime,” she said. “It was a very small and petty bunch of misdemeanors that added up to a bunch of time.”

Advocates like Jones say that money shouldn’t govern whether or not a person is kept behind bars while awaiting trial. The new law eliminates cash bail for the majority of misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses. Judges will also have to set three forms of bails, including an unsecured or partially secured bond.

Nicole Triplett with the New York Civil Liberties Union said judges have “historically defaulted” to money and commercial bail bonds.

“That’s huge because people will not have to be forced to pay the full amount to be released,” she said.

She also said police officers in the field will also issue citations for Class E felony offenses and below rather than make arrests.

“Tell the person that that person has to show up to court at a certain time and then be able to resolve the case in that way,” Triplett said.

She said, under the new laws, electronic monitoring will be more limited, judges will have to explain pre-trial decisions, and court reminders will be required to go out.

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