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Hochul’s aim to alter state’s bail laws discussed at hearing

Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposal to alter the state’s bail laws was at the center of discussion during a legislative hearing held on Monday. The focus of the hearing was to review data related to pretrial detention. Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan, who serves as the head of the state’s district attorney’s association, spoke on behalf of Albany County District Attorney David Soares who was scheduled to appear but did not attend. Jordan stated, “We’re not asking to gut bail, we’re asking how do we address it in the important questions.”

New York Police Department leaders who testified also shared similar concerns, highlighting about 2,000 individuals who they believe are responsible for a disproportionate number of crimes committed in the city. State Senator Jamaal Bailey from Bronx added, “We all want safe streets and making sure that people who commit bad acts are held accountable. We just want to make sure that the Lady Justice scales are balanced.”

During her State of the State address earlier in the month, Governor Hochul suggested that judges should have more discretion to consider setting bail for individuals accused of serious crimes, including the option to remand someone without bail. The governor aims to remove the “least restrictive” standard which has resulted in many judges releasing individuals who might have been eligible for bail, including those accused of violent felonies. Public defenders believe this proposed change would conflict with the individual’s rights under the US Constitution.

During the hearing, lawmakers discussed how to interpret the state’s publicly available data without political influence and questioned the chief of administration at the state Office of Court Administration on how they are informing judges to implement the bail laws. Justin Barry, the chief of administration, stated that they have disseminated materials on bail eligibility but declined to release the materials, stating that they are internal training materials and not designed for sharing outside of the court system. He also acknowledged that judges have varying opinions on the “harm-to-harm” provision, which applies to alleged offenses that cause harm to other individuals or property.

Democrats at the hearing focused on recidivism rates that have remained stable since 2019, while Republicans raised concerns about increases in dismissal rates. The NYPD officials, including Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, highlighted statistics showing an increase in shooting incidents among teenagers under 18 and an increase in low-level crimes committed by repeat offenders. The debate over the governor’s proposal is expected to continue over the next few months during budget negotiations between the governor and the Legislature.

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