Albany lawmawkers getting ready to overhaul bail reform laws

ALBANIA. NY – Albany’s lawmakers are preparing to revise bail reform laws.

They want to make it easier to hold repeat offenders and set bail for more crimes, but CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer says the proposed changes face some rejection.

More prison doors will close for those accused of firearms, hate crimes and repeat offenders as the legislature prepares to vote on a bail reform package that sources say will also clarify judges’ discretion to set bail.

The overhaul, which top lawmakers said was unthinkable just a few weeks ago, is expected to be voted on by the end of the week as part of the new state budget.

Sources tell CBS2 that a key element in a framework agreement drafted by Governor Kathy Hochul with lawmakers is new rules for dealing with mentally ill defendants, which allow judges to send them voluntarily or unwillingly for psychiatric evaluation and treatment.

Sources say that there will be funds for new psychiatric beds and new Safe Haven beds. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has closed 600 beds in New York City in recent years.

“I am absolutely in favor of devoting more resources to mental health in the budget … given its connection to crime,” said Jeffrey Cohen, who retired last year as a judge in the Brooklyn Appeals Division.

“Will that help tackle the growing crime we see?” Kramer asked.

“It should,” Cohen said.

The most controversial changes to the law from 2019 refer to the increase in the number of criminal offenses for which judges can set bail.

Sources say the law is expected to allow judges to set bail for more hate crimes, certain repeat offenders and more weapons cases. In addition, for a person to be charged with arms trafficking, a person would reportedly need to have only two guns instead of five, sources say.

Brooklyn Assembly member Latrice Walker, who went on a hunger strike to prevent change, said in a statement, “These proposals would undo the state’s progress in ending the criminalization of poverty and do nothing to improve public safety.”

One thing that is not included in the overhaul is the proposal made by both Governor and Mayor Eric Adams to allow judges to take into account the “danger” when determining bail.

Suffolk County Sen. Phil Boyle says he doesn’t understand that because 49 other states have “danger” laws.

“I think Governor Kathy Hochul can lose re-election only on this issue because all Republicans in the state, many independents in the state and many Democrats believe this bail reform law must be repealed completely,” he said.

Boyle points out that the state was hit by a red wave last year, and Republicans used bail reform to overthrow a number of Democrats.

Republicans take over Nassau and Suffolk County Attorney’s offices, and Republican Bruce Blakeman becomes executive director of Nassau County

Sources told CBS2 that the final details are in the draft law, which could be voted on by Friday.

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