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Changes to cash bail system proposed in New York

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN-TV) – – According to New York Senate Democrats, thousands of New Yorkers are sitting in jail simply because they do not have the money to post bail.

Both Democrats and Governor Andrew Cuomo are introducing legislation that would aim to change that.

There has long been a call for prison reform, but this year Senate Democrats say they plan to do something about it. They announced three bills they believe will bridge the gap in racial and wage inequality in the prison system.

This story happens more often than not according to the group. Young low-income offenders will often sit in jail for months before their case is ever heard, just because they can’t afford their bail.

“A poor person is sitting [behind bars] waiting months, sometimes years. The person of wealth is sitting at home waiting for his day in trial and is free,” Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) said.

Under this new legislation, non-violent suspects charged with low-level crimes would be allowed out of jail without having to post bail, with the promise they will return for their court date or placed under community supervision.

“Innocent until proven guilty, unless you’re poor,” Sen. Gianaris said.

“Our criminal Justice system is broken and we have to fix it,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers) said.

Some skeptics voiced the concern that some of these offenders might not return for their court date if they don’t have something to lose, like their bail money. However, Derrick Hogan, an Albany-area lawyer with Tully Rinckey, explains this is not necessarily the case.

“For low-level crimes, I think there is no need to put a certain amount of money on it because like I said they are not violent felonies. If someone is going to jump bail or even released on their own recognizance, if they’re not going to show up for court, they’re not going to show up whether they have bail or not,” Hogan said.

The other part legislators are pushing for is to require cases to move to trial more quickly and give defendants more information about their case before they are given a plea bargain.

States like Alaska and New Jersey have reduced or eliminated cash bail already.

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