Cash bail will no longer be required for many criminal charges in New York at the start of the year. But victim advocates, law enforcement and Republican lawmakers are concerned the measure goes too far.
Starting next year, judges in many criminal cases will only be able to set cash bail for those deemed to be a flight risk. The NYGov website also says cash bail will be eliminated for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies and includes a requirement for police officers. It's a concern for domestic violence victims advocates, like Community Programs at Family Services Vice President Leah Feldman.
“Domestic violence is a pattern of power and control which escalates over time,” said Feldman. “Unfortunately all too often we see patterns of escalation, which not interrupted, result in serious injury and death.”
Lawmakers, prosecutors and police officials on Thursday called for amendments to the changes about to be undertaken for the state's cash bail system. Senator Sue Serino says the measures put people at risk.
“They need to talk to their legislators and express concern, because this is something every single person has to be concerned with,” said Serino.
Ending cash bail for many criminal offenses was approved this year as a way of reducing the number of people who are in local jails before they reach trial. Senator Pat Gallivan says the changes should have been done more thoughtfully.
“Changes to the criminal justice system were and are warranted,” said Gallivan. “But they need to be done smartly. You need to be looking at evidence. You need to consult with professionals. You obviously need to keep with the times and that's our job as lawmakers.”
But supporters like Citizen Action's Amy Jones of ending cash bail say the current system only protects rich defendants who have been accused of crimes.
“That is why there are laws in place that place restraining orders and things of that nature to keep victims safe,” said Jones. “There are laws in place. The only difference is a rich abuser can be release before a poor abuser can.”
In a statement, the governor's office compared the bail changes to what Republican Governor Chris Christie did in New Jersey and called the concerns fearmongering.