Gov. Kathy Hochul has finally decided to address growing concerns over rising violent crime rates and the problems with the state’s controversial bail reform law.
Her 10-point plan announced Thursday contains reasonable, common-sense changes that need to be considered.
Most importantly — both from a crime perspective and a political one — the governor’s plan doesn’t kowtow to the hysterics of those who want to abandon the bail reforms enacted in 2019 and the subsequent amendments. The reforms were needed and long overdue for reasons we’ve stated in the past.
Instead, her plan proposes changes that many on both sides of the political aisle have called for, including giving judges more discretion to set bail for certain dangerous and repeat offenders, and adding more crimes to the list of those eligible for bail.
Other elements of the plan, according to The New York Post, include adding more gun-related offenses to the list of those eligible for arrest (instead of a simple desk appearance or bail); reforming the state’s “Raise the Age” statute (which raised the age of criminality from 16 to 18) to allow judges to keep a case in criminal court based on the crime and threat imposed by the suspect; reforming the discovery statute, which some have said provides too much information to defendants and discourages witnesses from coming forward; and making more gun crimes eligible for higher-level felonies.
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The governor also is proposing more funding for pretrial services, diversion and employment programs and for implementation of the Raise-the-Age statute.
Her biggest obstacle now is convincing Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to even allow their respective houses to debate the changes, much less act on them.
That push should come not just from the governor, but from rank-and-file lawmakers within the Democratic Party.
They should not only support improvements to the laws and reforms on their merits, but who should also see the benefits to themselves of appearing tougher on crime as the November election looms.
Consideration of the governor’s plan and other existing legislation designed to address crime should include legislative hearings that weigh the input of all stakeholders on the issue — including police leaders, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, social workers and criminal justice advocates.
Knee-jerk reactions and political posturing have no place in this debate.
The focus of these proposed reforms and any legislative action that follows should be keeping New Yorkers safe while preserving the rights of the accused.
There’s a long way to go before this is resolved. But the governor’s plan is a good place to start the discussion.
Legislative leaders must now allow the debate to move forward.