Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik wants states to adopt a dangerousness standard when determining bail or pre-trial release, and this month proposed linking it to federal grant funding.
Under Stefanik's proposal, states that approve laws allowing judges to consider the dangerousness would be eligible for $10 million in grants from the Department of Justice. The money would be used to help hire or retain law enforcement personnel or fund a public awareness campaign meant to improve relations with the community.
The measure was proposed as New York continues to debate its law that ended cash bail requirements for many criminal charges. The measure has been a focal point of a broader debate over public safety as voters in public surveys have called crime a top concern for them.
“In the face of the Far Left’s calls to ‘Defund the Police’ and dangerous bail reform that puts more violent criminals on the street, I am proud to lead this investment in our law enforcement and strengthen public safety. Far Left Albany’s reckless and dangerous bail reform policies have already put our communities at risk," Stefanik said. "My legislation will incentivize New York State to implement policies that correct their massive oversight and hold repeat offenders accountable. I’m proud to stand united with local law enforcement and our community members to work to keep Upstate New York and the North Country, and our state of New York, safe."
Stefanik's proposal has support from upstate law enforcement officials, who pointed to the need to boost recruitment in their ranks.
"Bail reform has proven that career criminals and offenders who don't care have made a mockery of the New York State Court System, placed stress on our local communities, and burdened local law enforcement agencies at a time when recruitment is so low," said Jefferson County Sheriff Peter Barnett. "Judicial discretion is a must at the time of arraignment because each case should be based on its own merits. If this continues then recidivism will flourish."
The proposal also comes days after Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed further changes to New York's bail law. Under Hochul's plan unveiled in the State of the State address last week, the "least restrictive" standard when setting bail would end for serious criminal charges.
Hochul has said the proposals are meant to end confusion in the law for judges when considering criteria for bail or pre-trial release. Last year, Hochul was able to secure changes to the bail law that expanded bail-eligible offenses.
Democratic leaders in the state Legislature, nevertheless, have been hesitant to back further changes to the bail measure in New York. Still, Democratic state lawmakers have acknowledged the concerns over crime and have called for ways of addressing crime to include efforts meant to improve mental health programs, homelessness and education.