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The Future of Bail Reform in NYS

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By Michael Diaz

Since January 1st, a brand new bail reform law in New York has been in effect. The law removes cash bail and pretrial detention for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, in an effort to make the system less prejudiced towards less fortunate communities. Across the country, it is estimated that around 67 percent of inmates in county jails are there for pretrial detention; a large portion of that number attributed to the fact that those inmates are simply not wealthy enough to pay their bail and be released. According to the Center for Court Innovation, the reform intends to lower that number in New York by upwards of 40 percent.

While many cases end without a jail sentencing, many critics of the reform fear for the consequences of allowing potential criminals back on the streets before arraignment. As the days pass, communities in New York are watching the effects of the reform. And while some say it is too early to see the full effects, others are already calling for changes to the reform.

Since the beginning of 2020, critics of the reform have been going back and forth. Examples of repeat offenders being released without bail fuel the battle even further. Tiffany Harris is a Brooklyn woman who was arrested three times in one week by the NYPD, twice for misdemeanor hate crime assaults, and the third for failing to report to court. Gerod Woodberry, a man wanted for four robberies and attempted robberies at Chase banks around Manhattan, was released under the new reform only to move on quickly and, authorities say, rob his fifth. According to court documents, Woodberry was quoted saying after his arrest and release on January 9th, “I can’t believe they let me out.”

Critics of the reform say these are examples of why this law is already failing. In the case of Tiffany Harris, opponents are pointing to the fact that nonviolent cases were not meant to be included in the reform. However, Harris was brought in after physically attacking two women. The reform includes a number of violent crimes, including 3rd-degree assault, vehicular assault/manslaughter, arson, killing a police dog or police horse, among others. Opponents of the reform worry that while awaiting their court dates, criminals have the opportunity to either commit further crimes or try to escape the situation altogether.

Nicole Bohling, an employee at the Seaqua Deli in Patchogue, lives near a man accused in a fatal drunk driving crash. “The law currently is not the right way to handle things; there is no just