Republican lawmakers in the New York state Senate on Monday called for details on how New York state is spending millions of dollars approved in last year's budget to enact changes to bail and discovery laws.
Focus on the money by Sens. Anthony Palumbo and Tom O'Mara has come after months of local prosecutors urging help to implement the bail and discovery changes that had been backed by advocates of broader criminal justice law changes.
Discovery law changes were meant to provide evidence on a faster basis in criminal defense cases and the bail law changes were meant to prevent people from waiting long periods of time in jails while awaiting trial.
“These reforms have dramatically increased the burden on prosecutors as prosecutors are required to review, prepare and disclose all information, paperwork and evidence associated with a criminal case within an impossibly short timeframe," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. "District attorneys have been struggling to comply with these onerous requirements since the changes went into effect in 2020, as offices around New York State continue to lack staffing, resources, and funding. As a result, dedicated and experienced prosecutors are struggling to manage the workload. These prosecutors are working long hours without any meaningful pay increase to make up for the nights and weekends they must spend working."
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York has estimated $100 million is needed to implement the changes. The lawmakers wrote in the letter more specifics are needed for how the money to implement the chages is being dispersed and how much counties have received so far.
In a astatement, the Division of Criminal Justice Services pointed to the millions of dollars that have already gone out the door to implement the changes.
"To date, the Division of Criminal Justice Services has provided $34.58 million to 57 counties for costs related to the new discovery law. Last month, the agency notified those counties of their second-year awards, which total nearly $40 million," the agency said. "DCJS will provide that funding to counties as soon as the agency receives, reviews and approves their applications for funding."
All told, the first round of funding accounted for $40 million to the 57 counties. A second round will send an additional $40 million as well. The state budget this year also included $25 million for system support, technology and expanded storage capabilities.