The case of Robert Guarino, the Anderson Center for Autism resident arrested 14 times since April, is not proof that bail reform isn’t working, as Saugerties police chief Joe Sinagra claims. Instead, it shows that municipalities, states and the federal government have invested in law enforcement over services for people with mental illness and disabilities.
Guarino’s multiple arrests for property damage and aggressive behavior strengthen the case for redistributing funds away from policing to services that actually address the underlying causes of many crimes — mental illness, poverty, homelessness, addiction and unemployment. We should be calling for programs that can actually keep people out of jail rather than contending that an autistic man should have been in jail after his first time breaking facility windows.
If the Anderson Center cannot provide Mr. Guarino with the structure and services he needs, it should find a therapeutic program that can. But those therapeutic group homes and facilities are scarce, if they exist at all. Therein lies the rub. Let’s focus on our failure adequately to fund social services and safety nets rather than bemoaning bail reform.