A Siena Poll released today found New Yorkers oppose the recently instituted bail reform law by a 12-point margin.
Forty-nine percent of respondents said the new law eliminating monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges is bad for New York, versus 37 percent who said it was good for the state.
This marks a turnaround: A poll taken after the law was passed in April found 55 percent supporting the law against 38 percent opposing.
According to a release accompanying the poll results, “While every demographic group moved more negative from April until now, independent, suburban and older voters moved the most, each from positive to strongly negative.”
Before the law went into effect, law enforcement and district attorneys warned it would compromise public safety.
Locally, former Ulster County acting district attorney Mike Kavanagh, in one of his last acts in office, issued a press release describing the crimes and criminal histories of nine defendants recently released from the Ulster County Jail under the new law. Among the defendants on Kavanagh’s list are a man with five prior DWI convictions awaiting trial on a sixth drunk driving offense, an accused burglar with two prior felony and 42 misdemeanor convictions and a woman charged with criminally negligent homicide who allegedly sold a fatal dose of fentanyl. Many of the defendants, Kavanagh noted, had prior histories of skipping court appearances and, in one case, had to be extradited from another state after fleeing charges in New York.
“In my judgment, this ill-advised legislation was politically driven and rushed to passage,” Kavanagh wrote.
Advocates of reform, including Ulster’s new DA, said the system was inequitable, and pointed out that most of those housed in county jails haven’t been convicted of a crime, but are instead waiting for the wheels of justice to turn, meanwhile being deprived of liberty, and notably, the ability to earn an income.
“As long as money is a condition of pretrial release, poor and working-class people will remain behind bars while those who are wealthy go home regardless of the likelihood of innocence or guilt,” he wrote as a candidate in July. “This is a fundamental injustice.”
But almost as soon as the law went into effect, Clegg as well as other supporters said they were open to some concessions, chiefly to allow judge’s to set bail in cases where the defendant is deemed dangerous.
“The bail reform law passed last year sought to fix a system that everyone, including DAs and law enforcement, agreed was flawed, but the new law needs changes to better protect public safety,” said state Senator Jennifer Metzger in the release earlier this month. “I have been meeting with stakeholders throughout my district on the reforms, and I believe we can strike the right balance.”
For more, read our article: In Ulster, DA, sheriff, state lawmaker all in favor of changes to new bail law.
Today, state GOP lawmakers said the poll results back their calls for stronger action.
“Now is not the time for small tweaks or minor changes to this new law,” said senate Republican leader John Flanagan. “Democrats should admit they made a grave mistake and swiftly join us in repealing bail reform now. It’s time to scrap this dangerous and deadly statute before more innocent New Yorkers are abused, assaulted, or killed.”