Reader’s Write: Let’s leave bail reform out of it

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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran should be ashamed of herself. She has spent the last few weeks reaching out to every news outlet that will have her, advocating for the rollback of badly overdue criminal justice reform in New York State.

This is not because she truly believes her constituents are in imminent danger because of the new law that eliminates cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, but because she thinks she can temper Republican criticism by surrendering to their fear-based narrative.

Firstly, the reason this law was implemented was to prevent courts from holding those accused of certain misdemeanors and non-violent felonies in custody simply because they couldn’t afford bail.

One can’t argue this is a matter of public safety, when (prior to the passage of the law) one individual accused of committing a crime and paying bail would get to walk free pending trial, while an indigent defendant accused of committing the same crime could spend weeks, months or even years behind bars without a conviction.

For an analysis of the new law that goes into much greater detail than I could possibly go into here, I strongly recommend “The controversy over New York’s bail reform law, explained” by Roxanna Asgarian, posted Jan. 17 on Vox.com.

Instead of doing her duty as county executive and explaining why the new law is necessary and why Republican fearmongering is not a valid basis to revisit the law, Curran seems bent on aiding them in their Willie Horton-style partisan crusade.

Especially disgusting is Curran’s mention of the recent anti-Semitic attack in Monsey, N.Y. in her Jan. 7 op-ed published by the Daily News, despite the fact that that horrific and traumatizing attack had nothing to do with the new bail reform law.

The law was not the reason the Monsey attacker was on the street, and, as attempted murder is a violent felony, that attacker was rightly denied release pending trial.

The day after Curran’s op-ed was published, the Daily News released an op-ed by state assemblypersons Dan Quart, Harvey Epstein and Linda B. Rosenthal, “Not in our name: Don’t use anti-Semitic attacks as a rationale for rewriting bail reform,” a truly excellent piece debunking the claim by Curran and others that they are acting in the best interests of the Jewish community.

Curran, unsatisfied with the damage she had done through print media, agreed to an interview on Jan. 16 with Brian Kilmeade on Donald Trump’s favorite source of inane right-wing chatter, “Fox & Friends.”

During the interview, Kilmeade harped on the case of an accused serial bank robber, took swipes at Gov. Andrew Cuomo and CNN and, for no reason in particular, brought up New York City’s sanctuary policies, despite the fact that Curran represents Nassau County and that local governments refusing to cooperate with ICE has nothing to do with the bail reform law.

While on “Fox & Friends,” Curran briefly mentioned the case of Kalief Browder, who spent more than a thousand days confined on Riker’s Island after being accused of stealing a backpack and later committed suicide (though she didn’t refer to him by name).  Curran said such a case proved that reform was needed, but she held that the new law went too far.

Bail for Browder was initially set at $3,000, which his family couldn’t afford to pay; the court eventually withdrew the offer of bail altogether.  For a detailed history of Browder’s legal case, see “Before the Law” by Jennifer Gonnerman, posted on The New Yorker’s website on Sept. 29, 2014.

Perhaps Curran believes mentioning Browder’s case, while also criticizing reform that might have saved his life, makes her, as Fox News used to put it, “fair and balanced.” However, there is no cutting it down the middle here.  Republicans have chosen reversing bail reform as the issue to run on and have a vested interest in portraying the law as a dangerous and abject failure, even if that portrayal is not based in reality.

I hope that our Democratic state legislators, especially those representing Long Island districts (including Anna Kaplan and Tony D’Urso), will ignore Curran’s cowardly advice, and, instead, stand firm.

Explain to your constituents why Republican arguments are wrong and how rolling back or neutering the new law would not improve public safety.  In this case, pursuing a middle ground (or surrendering outright) would not only be unethical but, from a political perspective, it would also mollify no one.

Matthew Zeidman

New Hyde Park

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Matthew Zeidman for speaking up!

    Prior to reform, around 70% of the ~1,100 people in Nassau County jails on any given day were being held pre-trial. The longer someone is held pre-trial, the more likely they are to be convicted and receive harsher sentences.

    Pretrial detention (especially due to inability to post bail) has an incredibly de-stabilizing effect on communities, families, and individuals.

    It has been less than a month since bail reform was implemented…

    We need to give bail reform’s community stabilizing potential a chance to work and for our elected officials to defend it, rather than collapse under the weight of fear-mongering.

  2. People are not in jail because they are too poor to afford bail. The bail industry exists because of people that cant afford the full amount of the bond. Eliminating bail, means eliminating the most effective and accountable way to release defendants who are accused of committing crimes. If people do not have skin in the game or family tied to some type of financial bond, they rarely show up. Just look at every other place that has tried bail reform. Failure to appears skyrocket. Harris County Texas, 62% FTA rate. Indiana, 80% of outstanding warrants are for FTA. At what point with our legislators wake up and realize that bail reform is a total wast of time. If there is someone who is in jail for the sole purpose of being too poor to afford his release, the system already has the ability to help that person. A judge can already release any defendant they want on their own recognizance. Many counties already have pretrial service departments who are supposed to help these types of defendants. The question we all need to ask is why arent those mechanisms which are already in place, working? The problem is not the bail industry. The problem is why arent the programs designed to help these populations working? Solve that and you will have a more efficient, fair and balanced system.

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