Criminal Justice

House of Representatives Approves Police Reform Measures

BY Nick Reisman New York State

A package of police reforms meant to boost law enforcement transparency and ban the use of chokeholds was approved Thursday evening by the House of Representatives.

The measures were approved roughly a month after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

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Panel Examining Racial Inequities In Justice System Gets A New Leader

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Judge Paul Feinman is set to lead the state court system's panel examining racial inequalities in the criminal justice as the task force's purview is expanding amid a broader social reckoning surrounding systemic racism.

The task force was formed in 2009 to review inequities in the legal system. It had since expanded in 2017 to review specific areas, including bail and speedy trial concerns in 2017. It has also focused on issues like wrongful convictions.

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4 Criminal Justice Law Changes New York Lawmakers May Consider

BY Nick Reisman New York State

George Floyd's death after he was trapped under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has sparked protests and unrest in more than 100 American cities, including New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

It may also spark further action by a state Legislature in Albany that is led by two black leaders, a Legislature composed of lawmakers who themselves were peppered sprayed and detained by police over the weekend.

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New York Courts Move Toward Reopening

BY Spectrum News Staff New York State

The state’s court system will begin to reopen in areas that are given approval by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week, the Office of Court Administration on Wednesday said.

The state’s top judiciary and court officials plan to gradually reopen courthouses starting on Monday in five judicial districts spread across 30 upstate counties: Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, Yates, Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego and Schoharie; followed by Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties on Wednesday, May 20.

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Exclusive: Gillibrand Urges Federal Officials To Provide Protections for U.S. Prison Staff, Inmates

BY Nick Reisman New York State

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand urged federal officials in a letter sent this week to provide better safeguards and guidance to federal prisons in order to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.

The letter sent to U.S. Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal and Attorney General William Barr and obtained by Spectrum News on Friday morning, comes as corrections union leaders and criminal justice advocates call for safer conditions in New York state prisons as well.

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Controversial NY Bail Law Would See Changes if Budget Legislation Passes

BY Nick Reisman New York State

New York lawmakers are poised to approve legislation that would expand the criminal charges that would qualify for cash bail — altering a measure that was approved in the previous year's budget.

The provision will qualify charges for offenses like sex trafficking, second-degree burglary, aggravated vehicular assault, money laundering charges, and child pornography.

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Corrections Union Chief Tests Positive for Coronavirus

BY Morgan McKay New York State

NYSCOPBA announced on Monday its Union President Michael Powers tested positive for COVID-19 and the union is calling for safety reform within the system during this pandemic.

The New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association is asking the state to allow all employees working in parole offices, correctional and mental health facilities, and other essential agencies to use personal protective equipment.

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Hate Crimes Hotline Announced in New York

BY Morgan McKay New York State

New York officials on Monday announced it was launching a hotline number New Yorkers could call to report hate crimes and bias-based incidents.

Even during this pandemic, hate crimes are still a pervasive problem in New York.

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Republican House Candidates Knock Bail Law

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The law ending cash bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges was approved on the state level last year, and it's on the state level where lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo may change it.

But Republican candidates for Congress this year have blasted the law, seeking to link their Democratic opponents to the measure, which is increasingly unpopular with voters statewide.

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Cuomo Says He Wants Bail Law Change in New York State Budget

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a radio interview Friday, said he wants to see changes to the state's bail law in the budget, due at the end of March.

Cuomo also plans to hold a public meeting with district attorneys, police and criminal justice advocates to discuss changes to the law, which end cash bail requirements for those facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses.

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Top Judge 'Confident' New York's Bail Law Will Change

BY Nick Reisman New York State

The state's top judge on Wednesday said she was confident the "unintended consequences" of the new cash bail law will be changed by state lawmakers to allow judges the ability to keep people in jail deemed too dangerous for release.

“I believe that without compromising the purity of its purpose, the new legislation can be amended, and strengthened, to recognize a narrow exception allowing judges, after a full and fair adversarial hearing, to detain a defendant in those few and extraordinary cases where such a credible threat exists,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said.

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Local-Level Lawmakers: Keep New York Bail Reform Law Intact

BY Nick Reisman New York State

A coalition of local government lawmakers on Tuesday are set to release a letter urging top elected officials in state government to not alter the cash bail law.

The measure ends cash bail requirements for those facing misdemeanor and non-violent felonies. It has become a focal point of controversy for law enforcement and Republican lawmakers, who have pointed to the release of people facing charges for crimes like robbery.

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Lawmaker Wants To End Double Bunking in New York Prisons

BY Morgan McKay New York State

A state lawmaker wants to end the practice of double bunking in medium security prisons in New York -- a move that has been pushed over he years by the union that represents corrections officers.

The bill backed by Assemblyman Billy Jones and the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association would limit the number of inmates allowed in a medium security dormitory. By only allowing 50 inmates, the state would end double-bunking.

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Cuomo Looks to Budget for Bail Law Changes

BY Nick Reisman New York State

The controversy surrounding New York's new cashless bail law could be defused as part of the state budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday in a radio interview on AM 970.

Cuomo in an interview with businessman and political donor John Catsimatidis for the first time acknowledged the budget is the likely destination for making alterations to the law, which ended cash bail requirements for misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges.

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New York City Bar: Don't Rollback Bail Law

BY Nick Reisman New York State

The New York City Bar Association in a letter this week urged the state's top elected leaders to not alter or rollback the law ending cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.

"We are cognizant of the pressures created by recent attacks on bail reform but we urge you to keep these vital changes intact for long enough to permit thoughtful study and analysis of the effects of the changes," the New York City Bar Association wrote in the letter.

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Cuomo Warm to Senate Democrats' Potential Bail Law Changes

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Senate Democrats are poised to propose changes to the state's new cash bail law, a development that received a warm reception from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday morning.

As Newsday reported Wednesday morning, Senate Democrats plan to propose what amounts to a two-part plan: End cash bail entirely, but expand the range of charges that would allow judges to determine if a person is too dangerous to go free pending trial.

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Bill Would Assess Judicial Diversity

BY Nick Reisman New York State

State lawmakers want a report on how diverse New York's judiciary actually is, introducing a bill Monday that would lead to the compiling and publishing of an annual report on the issue.

The measure, backed by Sens. Brad Hoylman and Luis Sepulveda, would require the Office of Court Administration to compile the demographic information on the state's judges and justices.

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Senate GOP Holds Bail Reform Task Force Meeting

BY Morgan McKay Albany/Capital Region

A Repeal Bail Reform Task Force, set up by Senate Republicans, held its first hearing in Buffalo on Thursday.

The task force says its goal is to hear from law enforcement, attorneys, probation officials and victims on the changes made to the bail and discovery process.

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NY AG James Says Trump's Rhetoric Stokes Hatred

BY Nick Reisman Albany/Capital Region

A change in the law is needed to combat the increase in hate crimes in New York, state Attorney General Letitia James said Wednesday at a forum on white nationalism and domestic terrorism.

“Given the rise in hate crimes, to sit idly by and do absolutely nothing to me is not the answer," James said at the forum, hosted by the New York State Bar Association.

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Criminal Justice Advocates Criticize AG James Over Bail Law

BY Nick Reisman Albany/Capital Region

A collection of progressive groups in a statement criticized Democratic Attorney General Letitia James for being open to changes to state's cash bail law.

The statement, signed by Citizen Action of New York, Communities Voices Heard - Power, Long Island Progressive Coalition, New York Communities for Change, Make the Road Action and VOCAL-NY, comes as lawmakers are pushing to making alterations to the law.

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Bipartisan Push Made for Bail Law Changes

BY Nick Reisman Albany/Capital Region

Democratic Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner and Republican Sen. Sue Serino are jointly backing efforts to alter the state's bail law that, in part, would provide more power to judges and add domestic violence charges among the offenses that would require bail.

But over the last several months, Republicans, law enforcement and local prosecutors have raised concerns with the measure and its implementation.

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Siena Poll: Support For Cash Bail Law Collapses

BY Nick Reisman Albany/Capital Region

Support for ending cash bail for many criminal charges in New York has collapsed among voters in less than a year, a Siena College poll released on Tuesday morning found.

The poll found voters by a margin of 49 percent to 37 percent believe the law is bad for the state. That's a switch from April, when most voters, 55 percent to 38 percent, were in support of the law, which ended cash bail requirements for those with misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges.

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Sanders, Warren: Don't Roll Back Bail Law

BY Nick Reisman New York State

The two leading progressive candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday pushed back publicly against efforts to alter New York's new bail law.

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren posted to Twitter that it would be a mistake to roll back the law, which ended cash bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges.

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De Blasio: Add Judicial Discretion To Cash Bail Law

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York’s new cash bai law should be amended so judges have more discretion in determining whether a person should be released, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Thursday.

“Where I think there is real agreement is that the bail reform law needs to be amended,” he said.

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