ALBANY — U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, waded into the bail reform debates Tuesday.
During a call with reporters Tuesday morning, Delgado said while he generally supports bail reform, he also supports looking into adding a danger factor to determine whether an individual charges with a crime should be released pre-trial.
“It’s important to note that before the recent reform ... if you could pay for your freedom, you were able to be free, irrespective of you being a threat to public safety,” Delgado said. “And I think what ultimately happened was an attempt to correct some of these deficiencies.”
“What wasn’t corrected, I think ... is the fact that under New York law it’s never been the case where your threat to public safety is actually in fact being considered.”
Certain individuals with a violent criminal past could be brought in front of a judge for a crime that is now no longer eligible for cash bail, Delgado said.
“And so I do think it’s important to think this through,” Delgado said. “I know there have been some state actors who proposed some legislation ... so we’ll continue to watch it.”
Delgado’s thoughts come after his fellow Congress members have taken stances on the reforms, most recently U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, who co-sponsored a bill this month that would study how people released from jail pre-trial are supervised. In November, a bipartisan cohort of the New York House representatives sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo opposing the reforms.
Bail reform has been a hot topic in the state Capital since legislators returned for the new session, with multiple state lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans alike — proposing amendments either to roll back or repeal the historic laws. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who proposed the legislation in his 2019 agenda, said during his 2020 budget address that he and lawmakers would have to look into making changes to the law throughout the budget process.
“Let’s understand the facts and consequences and discuss it rationally and make the decisions that we need to make, and we will do that as we move forward in the coming weeks,” he said.
Attorney General Leticia James has also voiced concerns over the reforms.
James has said she supports moving away from a cash bail system, but the attorney general also has told reporters she would want hate crimes to be reevaluated for judicial discretion, and that adding a type of danger assessment tool to determine pre-trial release could also be helpful.
Activists have been slamming elected officials for considering making tweaks to the laws.
The Legal Aid Society called the governor’s proposal to go back to the drawing board a “slap in the face to communities of color who have shouldered the brunt of a racist and carceral criminal legal system” and in an emailed statement urged the state government “to resist calls to revert to a system that ignored the presumption of innocence and inflicted punishment on New Yorkers without any finding of guilt, solely because they lacked the deep pockets to purchase their freedom.”
Other activists and some legislators have warned against reinstating any type of judicial discretion, for example to evaluate dangerousness.
“Judicial discretion invites back in bias,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-83, recently told reporters. The legislator has stood firm in his support for leaving the reforms as is.
“When two people who are charged with the same crime end up with different bails, that gives me pause on judicial discretion,” he said. “Right now the way the law is written, it is based on the crime you are accused of, whether you should be released.”
Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at email@example.com, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.