Hundreds of inmates on Long Island are back on the street due to the state’s new Bail Reform Legislation, which ended cash bail for all misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenders in New York.
The new reform, which took effect as of Wednesday, Jan. 1, 301 inmates in Suffolk County were released by the courts, according to the Sheriff’s Office. In the past, those inmates would have been held on bail or bond, depending on the severity of the crime and the inmates’ criminal histories.
“Judges used to have some discretion on whether or not an individual should be held on bail,” Sheriff Errol Toulon, Jr. said. “Now, it is black and white - no bail for these crimes, regardless of the impact to the community. The offender will be given a court date and told to come back for court.”
Toulon highlighted some of the offenders who have been released, including Lonnie Pernell, 23, of Centerport, who was in and out of jail five times during November and December last year, and Shirley resident Dwayne Ross, 46, who was arrested in December for strangulation, released, and was arrested two weeks later on a separate offense.
The sheriff highlighted some crimes that are deemed “non-violent” under the bail reform legislation:
- Third-degree assault;
- Aggravated vehicular assault;
- Aggravated assault upon a person under the age of 11;
- Criminally negligent homicide;
- Aggravated vehicular homicide;
- Second-degree manslaughter;
- Unlawful imprisonment;
- First-degree coercion;
- Third and fourth-degree arson;
- First-degree grand larceny;
- Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds or criminal possession of a firearm;
- Some drug offenses involving the use of children;
- Promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child;
- Possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child, and;
- Promoting a sexual performance by a child.
According to Toulon, in addition to the safety concerns of repeat offenders and potentially violent criminals walking the streets, those released will never enter the correctional facility and make sure of programs and services available while they are incarcerated in Suffolk County.
Toulon noted that “inmates often detox upon entering the facility, coming off of drugs and alcohol in a safe environment. They can then begin addiction programs, therapy programs, high school equivalency classes, specialized youth and elderly housing areas, and more. If these offenders are not remanded by the courts, the chances of them entering a program are very slim.”
The sheriff is calling on elected officials to repeal the bail reform legislation as soon as possible.
“As we look at the effects of the ‘official’ enactment of bail reform, there are clearly serious issues with this state law,” Toulon said. “Judges must have discretion to determine bail based on a criminal defendant’s likelihood to re-offend and cause further pain to his or her victims and the public at large. The New York State Legislature should amend or repeal bail reform now.”
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