Political Battle Intensifies Over Sweeping Bail Changes In New York

WCBS 880 Newsroom
November 21, 2019 - 5:19 pm
Prison jail

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Law enforcement officials and prosecutors are intensifying a debate over the implementation of sweeping changes to New York's criminal justice system.

They voiced concerns on Thursday over changes that are set to take effect at the beginning of 2020. That includes an overhaul of the state's bail law. It removes pre-trial detention and money bail for the wide majority of misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases.

The goal is to reduce jail overcrowding.

There were 10 simultaneous statewide news conferences held Thursday by law enforcement on the criminal justice reforms.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says the changes will jeopardize public safety. He made the comments at a press conference in Albany while joined by prosecutors and other law enforcement officials.

Acting Queens District Attorney John Ryan joined other law enforcement officials who are worried about the change.

"A defendant was arrested on a commercial burglary, it was his 44th arrest. He has 25 misdemeanor convictions, five felony convictions and 14 failures to appear in court. He also has convictions in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Bail was set, but if his case is not disposed of he will walk out of Rikers on Jan. 1. And the point is you may think, 'Maybe he should walk out,' but under the law, the judge has no choice," Ryan said.

Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon warns some of the offenders who are put back on the streets could be violent.

"Manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, burglary, drug sales on school grounds, anyone who looks at these 400 charges can see that there are crimes that an average person would consider violent," he said.

Supporters of the changes say it will prevent poor people from languishing in jail for low-level crimes while their cases work through the system.

Community bail funds described money bail as needless and cruel.

WCBS880.com contributed to this report.