ALBANY — Following newly enacted criminal justice reforms in New York State, Sen. Fred Akshar, R- Binghamton, has been a vocal opponent to the changes — and this week he introduced legislation that he says would help curb the release of violent criminals back onto the street.
“In my heart, I believe that most individuals working in government or in nearly any vocation have good intentions, no matter their political persuasion,” Akshar said. “But, good intentions without common sense, thoughtfulness and input from those with knowledge and experience can often lead to disaster.”
“It has only been days since the ‘reforms’ have gone into effect, but we’re already seeing mandatory release, after mandatory release, of repeat offenders and those arrested for serious, violent crimes,” he continued.
Across New York state, individuals accused of manslaughter, sexual misconduct with children, conspiracy and facilitation of rape, hate crimes, assault, burglary and more have been “handed get-out-of-jail free cards and released out into our communities with reckless abandon,” Akshar said.
Akshar noted that state Democrats claim the reforms only apply to non-violent crimes.
“In Broome County, bail reform releases from the past week include, 15 men and one woman arrested for strangulation; a woman arrested for rape of a mentally disabled victim and injuring a child; three men arrested for soliciting the sexual performance of a child; four men arrested for injuring a child; a man charged with manslaughter recklessly causing a death, and many more,” Akshar said.
Further, he noted that, statewide, the following “get-out-of-jail-free cards” have been given to a man charged with manslaughter in the strangulation-and-stabbing death of a woman in Albany; a man charged with predatory sexual assault, rape, and endangering the welfare of a child in Seneca County; a man charged with driving drunk and killing a pedestrian in Harlem; a woman arrested and released multiple times over a five day period of attacks and alleged hate crimes, including slapping three Jewish women while screaming anti-Semitic tirades in Brooklyn; a man charged with driving illegally, accidentally killing a 35-year-old mother of three and fleeing the scene of the crime in Rockland County; and a man arrested in connection with six burglaries, who committed another burglary within hours of release on Long Island.
“Much of the momentum behind the need for bail reform came from the story of a young man named Kalief Browder, who was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack, but spent three years incarcerated at Rikers Island due to the backlogged Bronx criminal court system and the fact that he could not afford bail,” Akshar explained. “This ordeal eventually led Kalief Browder to take his own life at 22 years old.”
Akshar acknowledged the Constitutional right for a quick and speedy trial but likened the above legislation to “performing brain surgery with a jackhammer.”
Other states like New Jersey, California and Illinois have limited the use of bail.
“New York is one of the few states to abolish bail for many crimes without also giving state judges the discretion to consider whether a person poses a threat to public safety in deciding whether to hold them,” Akshar said, adding that the changes create a “revolving door.”
For example, Akshar explained that if a defendant fails to appear in court, they may be arrested and then released without bail. Then they are provided a sheet of paper with the date of the next court appearance.
If the defendant fails to appear again, they still cannot be issued a warrant without sending a further letter, phone call or text.
If they fail to appear in court again, unless it can be shown that their lack of appearance was willful and persistent, they still cannot have their bail set, he said.
Resultantly, Akshar introduced legislation to restore bail for the violent and dangerous crimes that require it — including manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless assault of a child, facilitating a sexual performance by a child, menacing, stalking and more.
Additionally, a second piece of legislation was introduced to remove the option for cashless bail if the arrested individual was been convicted of a felony in the past 10 years.
“All men and women may be created equal, but all crimes are not,” Akshar said. “For justice to truly prevail, our judicial system must be allowed to handle dangerous crimes on a case-by-case basis.”
“Otherwise, New York will continue to put criminals before the safety law-abiding citizens in our community,” he added.