Public safety officials criticize bail reform

By FRITZ MAYER
Posted 1/29/20

MONTICELLO, NY — A trio of Sullivan County public safety officials criticized the bail reforms that became law on January 1. With these reforms, imposing bail on people who commit most …

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Public safety officials criticize bail reform

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MONTICELLO, NY — A trio of Sullivan County public safety officials criticized the bail reforms that became law on January 1. With these reforms, imposing bail on people who commit most misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes is no longer an option, and suspects are released on their own recognizance.

At a meeting of the Public Safety Committee at the government center on January 21, Sullivan County Probation Director Barbara Martin said the reforms meant more people are now on probation in the county.

She said her department saw an increase of 15 cases within 17 days, which is normally what her department gets in a three-month period. “Some of the concerns we have is that many of [the parolees] are felony offenders who have felony convictions on their records. One gentleman has eight felony convictions in his history and he was released. Some of them are looking at life sentences and they are being released.

“We did some curfew checks and what we found is the people are not living where they are supposed to be, drinking alcohol, some had drug paraphernalia and some were not obeying the curfew.

“I think that the state is realizing that there are things that need to be done; one of those things is giving the courts the ability to have some discretion with what they do with some of the offenders.

Acting district attorney Meagan Galligan also addressed the issue. “We continue to urge our legislature to rethink this. We do believe it poses a risk to public safety, and that a person’s dangerousness to the community should be taken into account [before being released]. Our position at the district attorney’s office is that the bail reform law is dangerous for public safety and dangerous for victims.”

Sheriff Mike Schiff said bail reform has reduced the number of inmates in the county jail. He said the numbers dropped from 145 to 104. “I do believe the legislature and the governor are going to have to address some of these laws that they have put in place.”

He also said the new evidence rules are onerous and have resulted in much more paperwork for officers. “Information that we are required to turn over in an automatic fashion is chilling. When you’re going to be a complainant, when you’re going to be a witness, your information is going to be turned over to the defendant automatically. In the past, the DA has been able to block [the] release of personal information.” He said it’s going to make people reluctant to report possible crimes to law enforcement agencies.

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