New York's 'Bail Reform' Is Having Detrimental Impacts, Especially on the Jewish Community

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Posted: Dec 29, 2019 1:00 PM
New York's 'Bail Reform' Is Having Detrimental Impacts, Especially on the Jewish Community

Source: Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

New York State's new "bail reform" initiative has been thrown into the spotlight following Saturday night's stabbing attack on a Jewish congregation gathering to celebrate Hanukkah. 

Beginning Jan. 1, criminals charged with most misdemeanors and Class E felonies will be released from jail without having to post cash or a bond. The goal is to not criminalize "poverty by keeping someone in jail only because they can't afford to get out," the Albany Democrat reported. 

District attorneys and law enforcement officials across the state took Issue with the initiative because some misdemeanors and felonies, like theft, assault and aggravated harassment, aren't eligible for cash bail.

New York City Councilmen Chaim Deutsch and Kalman Yegar have repeatedly spoken out against the initiative, especially as anti-Semitism continues to rise.

"For two years, we have been sounding the alarm and asking for resources to confront rising anti-Semitism. We have begged for extra cops, for security funds, for more cameras, and for more attention towards this growing problem. Day after day, month after month, we had doors slammed in our faces. We were told to relax - that this isn't as big a deal as we think it is. Do you believe us now?" Deutsch and Yegar said in a joint statement.

"We renew these calls for extra resources - we need to be able to tell our communities that New York is doing everything possible to keep them safe. That fact that our constituents have been seeing video after video of their neighbors being beaten on the street and harassed," the duo said. "Then they have watched as the attackers walk out of the courthouse scot-free, with a City-sponsored gift card in their wallet."

Councilman Deutsch launched a petition for New Yorkers to express their concern over the new criminal justice reform initiative:

Dear Governor Cuomo,

We write to you as New Yorkers united in concern about your criminal justice reform initiative that takes effect on January 1, 2020. We have watched with growing discontent during the last several years, as city leaders tout the phrase “safest big city” to describe the streets that we often feel unsafe on.

Rising hate crimes, prolific drug usage, and frequent news of violent attacks, such as the murder of young Tessa Majors just this month, leave us wondering why you have chosen to implement vast changes in the way our state approaches suspects in criminal activity.

Bail reform, which will revamp the criminal justice system and release thousands of suspected offenders onto the streets, is of grave concern to us. While there are certainly crimes that should be punishable by just a ticket (such as a traffic violation), that is not the case with many others. Crimes like selling drugs to children, arson, promoting a sexual performance by a child, assault, and stalking are serious offenses that could potentially result in extended prison time. We believe that disallowing judges to use discretion in such cases will result in the release of dangerous criminals onto our streets.

New discovery laws will also have dire implications, including making it more difficult for police and district attorneys to protect witnesses and victims. Requiring discovery documents to be turned over to the defense in all cases within 15 days of arraignment has serious implications.

Only 3% of all cases result in a trial. Until now, that meant that only 3% of all defendants would get access to witness and victim statements and contact information. These new laws will allow all defendants to receive that information, not just in cases where it goes to trial.

With these changes, along with the rise in crime and bias incidents and the closing of Rikers Island, we are deeply worried for the future of this great city. We don’t want to see our streets turn back in time, to the dangerous days of the 1980s.

Deutsch highlighted the case of 30-year-old Tiffany Harris as a prime example of why the initiative is a failure. 

Harris was charged with assault for punching and hitting three Orthodox Jewish women in the face and head in an anti-Semitic attack. 

"F-U, Jews!” Harris allegedly shouted during the attack.

Later Harris admitted to the attack.

“Yes, I was there,” she said. “Yes, I slapped them. I cursed them out. I said ‘F-U, Jews.”

Prosecutors didn't ask for a bail because of the new law that is schedule to take go into effect on Jan. 1. 

“The de Blasio administration has made it clear that we all need to get into compliance with bail reform now,” a law enforcement official told the New York Post. “If prosecutors had asked for bail, corrections would release them immediately" or they would be released come Jan. 1.

When Harris was released without bail following her arraignment, Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Laura Johnson mentioned the bail reform initiative as the reason.

“So I’m releasing her on consent and also because it will be required under the statute in just a few days,” the judge said. “Ms. Harris you’re being released on your own recognizance.”

How many more Jews have to be attacked before people like NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo realize this initiative fails to provide any kind of punishment for criminals?