Senate, Assembly Republicans seek changes in criminal justice policies

Photo from Rob Ortt’s Office: Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt speaks at the podium in the State Capitol today with legislative colleagues and law enforcement officials.

Posted 28 March 2022 at 3:49 pm

Press Release, State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt

ALBANY – New York State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay, law enforcement officials and members of the Assembly and Senate Republican Conferences today called on Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders to reverse failed criminal justice policies and strengthen public protection in the 2022-23 State Budget.

“For the past three years, New Yorkers have seen the disastrous effects of one-party rule on their safety and well-being,” Ortt said. “Violent crime rates are up, security in neighborhoods is down. It’s time for Albany leaders to admit what we all know – their record on public safety has been an abysmal failure, and they must decisively change course in this year’s state budget. That means no more criminal coddling. Supporting law enforcement. Repealing bail reform, making Kendra’s Law permanent, and fixing New York’s discovery laws. Let’s restore public safety to our state.”

In 2019, Democrats in Albany drastically overhauled New York’s criminal justice system. Those changes greatly diminished the public’s safety and enabled career criminals to enjoy wide latitude to operate in New York. As such, the Republican Conferences are calling for a substantial rollback of those policies, including increased judicial discretion in setting bail and changes to parole procedures.

After New York City Mayor Eric Adams, law enforcement officials and state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the wrong-headed liberal policies currently in place; reports indicate there may be an inclination to include changes in the budget.

Today’s calls by elected officials and law enforcement build upon the Senate Republican plan to Restore Public Safety in New York, unveiled as part of the Take Back New York agenda earlier this year. The plan involves:

Protecting Those Who Protect Us:

  • Invest in law enforcement;
  • Provide them with the support they need to make our communities safe and serve those in need; and
  • Fight Democrat efforts to demonize and “Defund the Police.”

Rejecting Dangerous “Reforms” like Cashless Bail:

  • End cashless bail, restore judicial discretion and reject dangerous Democrat proposals to erase entire criminal databases;
  • Require state agencies to be transparent about the effects of public safety policies; and
  • Fix unworking discovery and “speedy trial” laws that have turned our justice system into a revolving door for repeat and violent offenders.

Reforming the Broken Parole System:

  • Recenter the Parole process around the protection and rights of crime victims and their families;
  • Ensure that cop-killers, serial killers, child killers, and other dangerous murderers can NEVER be released; and
  • Reject dangerous Democrat proposals to weaken the Parole System.

Passing a Victims’ Justice Agenda:

  • Strengthen penalties for violent and repeat offenders, as well as hate crimes;
  • Invest in proven mental health, addiction, homeless, and victims’ programs and services; and
  • Make Kendra’s Law permanent, to ensure that those struggling with mental illness get the help they need.

“We are not saying we need to completely undo these laws, but we do need to find ways to fix them,” said Washington County District Attorney J. Anthony Jordan, president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. “And we must do it now, which means this budget cycle. We all know that some unintended consequences of our current bail, discovery and Raise the Age laws have allowed dangerous criminals to take advantage of those new laws and has contributed to an uptick in violent crimes and crimes against property, all leading to a loss of a sense of safety and security in our communities.

“If courts cannot consider the reality that certain defendants pose a risk to public safety, then courts are not serving public justice or public safety. A sensible balance between the rights of defendants and public safety is possible. Like all new laws adjustments prudently need to be made to ensure the intended outcome.”

“Sheriffs have been stalwart in their opinion on bail reform,” said Kevin Mulverhill, Franklin County Sheriff and 1st Vice President NYS Sheriff’s Association. “The original bail reform initiative, while well-intentioned, was a drastic overcorrection, and for the past several years we have been dealing with the fallout. It is past time that New York joins nearly every other state in the nation, as well as the federal judiciary, in allowing judges to consider a defendant’s risk to public safety when considering bail or remand.  Sheriffs believe this simple change will alleviate many of the problems we are seeing today.”

Assemblyman Mike Norris, R-Lockport, issued this statement: “Today my colleagues and I renewed our calls for much-needed changes of the so-called bail reforms as part of this year’s state budget due April 1. Our advocacy and the public’s outcries for justice has led the governor to pledge her support to this initiative at last, but she must commit to persuading the downstate-driven Majorities to enact the substantive changes needed now, as part of this year’s budget in order to protect public safety and improve our state’s judicial branch.

“Judicial discretion must be restored, along with discovery provisions, and any future reforms should include input from stakeholders like the judges, law enforcement and corrections officers who are tasked with enforcing our laws and who, sadly, have been excluded from discussions by the Majorities until this point.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, issued this statement: “So long as innocent people continue to get hurt by those who should not be walking free in our neighborhoods, I will continue to demand the restoration of the discretion that was taken away from our judges in 2019. As we now work to pass our state’s budget, I feel we have a real opportunity to restore order and save lives. Gov. Hochul’s proposed changes to the law may be a good start, but when we’re talking about matters of literal life and death, we can’t afford to do any less than finally fix this law once and for all to protect our communities.”