Hochul administration punts future of bail reform to New York legislature

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NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Kathy Hochul is not yet sharing what her administration’s approach will be when it comes to calls for additional changes to the state’s bail reform law.

On Thursday, Gov. Hochul was asked about possible changes to bail reform, but didn’t outline a specific approach to the issue.

“We are certainly looking at all of the policy options. Those of you who are getting to know me, know that I’m not going to be crafting legislation at a press conference,” Hochul said.

“It is a conversation that I have already had with our legislative leaders. Our main focus is public safety, protecting people where they live, and finding all of the opportunities to do that, and make sure it makes sense.”

The measure, which took effect last year, eliminated bail for certain lower-level offenses, and was amended months later to reinstate the option for certain charges, but some members of law enforcement have said that’s not enough to fight rising rates of violent crime.

Patrick Phelan, executive director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, said during a recent press conference that the previous system had serious problems, but that the new law isn’t the solution.

That measure, he said, should instead be replaced with a system that could try to predict the potential threat someone could pose to the public upon release.

“We’re asking that the judges that are elected by the people of New York, be allowed to consider the defendant’s danger to the community, as they’re allowed to do in 49 other states,” Phelan said.

Opponents of that standard say it could be used for racial profiling, which would be counterproductive to the initial goals of bail reform, one of which was racial equity among the incarcerated population.

Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin was also asked about the issue of bail reform, and took a similar tone to the governor.

“Public safety is the key issue. We want to be fair, we don’t want wrongful incarceration or anything along those lines. We want to make sure that we have safe streets, and that the public is safe,” Benjamin said.

With Hochul’s State of the State address less than three weeks away, more details about her approach could soon be on the horizon. She’s scheduled to deliver that speech on January 5.