Although Democrats now control both houses of the New York state legislature, they are having difficulty coming to an agreement on criminal justice reforms. Some lawmakers want to end cash bail, but Republicans and some Democrats are urging a more cautious approach.
Law enforcement officials joined state Senate Republicans to discuss criminal justice reform Wednesday — something they believe Democrats are trying to enact too quickly and without enough input from experts.
"I am troubled that there are a number of proposals going forward that are being put forward without really any thought simply to score political victories," said Erie County State Sen. Pat Gallivan, a Republican.
Reforming the system has been a top priority for advocates and Democrats who waited years before they finally had a Democratic–controlled state Senate to work with.
There are three bills currently being considered:
- Ending cash bail
- Ensuring the right to a speedy trial
- Reforming what's known as the "Discovery Process" before trials
But these bills were supposed to pass last month.
"We have seen fearmongering opposition from the District Attorney's Association of New York, and from some individuals Das, who are peddling lies about some of the legislation, but in ways that, I think, has been intimidating to some of the legislators," said Katie Schaffer, the New York Statewide Organizer for advocacy group JustLeadershipUSA.
District attorneys deny they are standing in the way of reform. "District attorneys are not opposed to reform of the criminal justice system," said Schenectady County District Attorney Bob Carney, a Democrat.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins downplayed the notion that there has been a significant delay.
"There isn't a hold up. We just want to make sure we do it right," the Democrat said to members of the media Wednesday. "These things have been wrong for a very, very long time."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says criminal Justice reform must be part of the budget, which is due at the end of the month. State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who previously said he will stake his speakership on getting criminal justice reform done, said he feels much less pressure to get it done quickly now that Democrats control the Senate. He's confident the will to get it done is there.