By Thomas O’Neil-White
A new component to the state’s bail reform measures, set to debut Thursday, will rollback some of the gains made at the beginning of the year.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says the rollback is geared toward making sure someone doesn’t re-offend.
The initial reforms, which began in January of this year, eliminated bail for most misdemeanor and non-violent crimes. They were heralded by advocacy groups as a step in the right direction for racial equity in the criminal justice system. Bail, in this manner, would be used to ensure individuals came back to court. The January reforms were met with heavy criticism from law enforcement and politicians from both sides of the aisle, and in April a bill was passed which rolls back many of the previous achievements.
Flynn said a new component is being added to the reforms.
“In addition to ensuring that person comes back to court,” he said. “It is also allowed, for bail to be set now, to assure that the individual complies with court conditions.”
This means an individual must, in addition to coming to court, also adhere to conditions set by the judge.
A person in jail cannot re-offend while in jail, so the argument goes, and Flynn said this new roll back will hopefully deter someone from re-offending while out without bail.
“The person I’m talking about,” he said, “is the individual who on June 1 commits a non-qualifying offense. A burglary of a business, not a home. And then they get R.O.R’d (Released on Own Recognizance) because they have to, it’s not a qualifying offense. And then a week later they go out and commit another petit larceny. And come back to court on that and again the judge has to release him on that as well.”
In this situation, Flynn would like judges to have the discretional power for setting bail. For now, judges can only impose bail on individuals who violate court orders.
Flynn believes the new reforms can hold people responsible for their actions while also helping to solve racial disparity issue related to the criminal justice system.
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