Senate Democrats, governor open to changing state’s bail reform law

wwny Senate Democrats, governor open to changing state’s bail reform law

ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Amid controversy over bail reform, Democrats in the state Senate are considering making changes to the state’s new law. It appears Governor Cuomo is also open to adjusting it.

New York's bail reform law went into effect on January 1 and it eliminates cash bail for most defendants - those charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.

Since then, law enforcement and Republican lawmakers have rallied to repeal the law.

Now, Senate Democrats are proposing changes. Senate Majority Leader Andrea-Stewart Cousins says the proposal would completely get rid of cash bail; either you go to jail or are set free until your next court date.

In a statement, the Democrat said, "Simply put, the reforms will ensure that no one will be incarcerated simply because of their inability to pay and that no one will be let out of prison because of their enormous wealth."

The proposal also gives judges more discretion when dealing with suspects but with "extremely strict guidelines and guardrails." People accused of almost all misdemeanors and non-violent felonies would continue to be released.

A Senate source said that would be with the exception of crimes that result in the death of another person, certain domestic violence felonies and certain hate crimes.

Under the proposal, the amount of time district attorneys have to build their case and turn over the evidence would also be extended.

But, state Senator Joe Griffo, who represents parts of the north country and is the senate deputy minority leader, says he doesn't think making changes is the answer.

"To me, the answer to this is an outright repeal and restarting. No tweaking. Repeal, restart this by including and involving all of the stakeholders in the criminal justice system. That means you sit down with law enforcement, you sit down with district attorneys, you sit down with criminal defense counsels and you sit down with them and get their perspectives and you then incorporate and implement accordingly. And I don't believe they're willing or prepared to do that," said Griffo (R. - 47th District).

Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo also appears to be willing to make changes to the law. He addressed the issue during a visit to Oswego County earlier this week.

"I always supported getting away from cash bail, but when you make a change like that, you have to watch what the effects are. These are complex systems, you change one part then you step back and you see what the effect is and you adjust accordingly. So let's get the facts, let's get the data and then let's make the system better. I think that's the only smart way forward," he said.

But it could be challenging to make changes as several media reports say that Assembly Democrats are unwilling and that they want to see how it all evolves first.

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