To the Editor:
The 2019 Bail Reform Bill is probably better called a Criminal Justice Reform Bill. It did much more than just make changes to the bail laws in New York.
We have all heard numerous outcries that many of those changes were too much, and that a new reform bill is required. I agree that parts of the 2019 bill are not improving the system. However, I would not vote to repeal the bill, as many Republicans have called for. Instead, I would act as the governor is doing – introduce changes that will make the bill work better.
The governor has proposed a 10-point plan to change the original criminal justice reform bill. These changes include restoring the court’s ability to apply or not apply bail in some cases, such as certain gun-related cases and repeat offenders of non-violent crimes, modifications to the discovery timeframes, and funding for mental health services and pretrial programs.
I support these three proposals and I want to point out the importance of the discovery changes.
Discovery is the process of exchanging evidence. The original reform law requires a very short timeframe for prosecutors to make the exchange – in most cases fewer than 35 days. The law says that if police have the evidence, then it is assumed the prosecutor does, too.
This is where the problem starts to take shape. This timeframe can be impossible for police agencies to meet in many cases, and the result is fewer arrests and more staff for documents handling (higher costs).
The concept is valid – provide the evidence as soon as possible and by doing so we can forget about the phrase “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
The fixes in the governor’s proposal support our police agencies and make it possible for them to make arrests and deliver the evidence promptly, which means our communities are safer.
Dan Butterman, Oneonta
[Editor’s note: Mr. Butterman is a candidate in the race for the New York State Assembly’s 122nd District.]