At the urging of town police chief Joe Sinagra, the Saugerties village board on Tuesday, Feb. 18 adopted a resolution calling for the state’s controversial new bail reform laws to be further reformed.
Sinagra’s resolution, which is based on a sample circulated by the New York Committee of Mayors, called for five major modifications to the law: ensure that municipalities are provided with state funding to offset the cost of the mandated measures that come with new shorter discovery periods; to allow a 60, rather than 15, discovery period for prosecutors; to exclude violation-level charges from the new discovery requirements; to adjust the 20-day arraignment requirement for small-town courts that meet on a monthly basis; and to allow prosecutors to withhold sensitive information, like victim contact information, from the defense without obtaining a court order to do so.
“[Lawmakers] didn’t realize what this really meant for those of us in law enforcement when the boots meet the ground, who have to deal with this every day, said Sinagra on Tuesday. “It was [implemented] in such a way that the pendulum swung so far to the left that it’s made it impossible for law enforcement to do their jobs and made it unsafe in our communities. Every day you pick up the paper and see an individual that prior to 2020 would have been held on bail who are re-offending.”
The new law, which went into effect Jan. 1, removes pretrial detention and cash bail for nearly all misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Advocates say an inability to make bail resulted in many poor defendants spending months or years behind bars before their cases were finally resolved. But in the face of massive public pushback, state lawmakers are considering tweaks, including giving judges more discretion on who can be held pre-trial.
Town Supervisor Fred Costello Jr. said Wednesday that he and town councilpersons would need to discuss the matter further before voting on the resolution. He conceded that among the board there is “clearly some concern with the potential financial impacts that this reform imposes on the police department.”
Said Costello, “The board is considering our own version or not. There’s not a clear consensus on that yet. It appears that the state legislature is moving in the direction of reforming it already. We’re not doing anything tonight but we’re considering his request.”