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Ashby proposal would eliminate cash bail completely and give judges more discretion

Apr 07, 2023 1:03 pm

Raga Justin reports in the Times Union that with Democrats in Albany locked in negotiations to produce a new state budget, state Senator Jake Ashby, a Rensselaer County Republican, has a proposal for the state's bail laws he hopes breaks the deadlock. Ashby would eliminate cash bail altogether, but give judges discretion to hold dangerous alleged criminals. People accused of crimes are considered by the courts innocent until proven guilty, but the current bail system puts these innocent people in jail. Ashby's proposal would remove all references to cash bail from New York’s criminal code. Judges, though, would get sweeping oversight over when to remand someone accused of a crime before their trial. And his proposal would create a Commission on Public Safety Reform, to analyze court data to give judges an objective standard they could use to determine how to evaluate someone’s perceived risk of harm to themselves or others, or their potential to leave the court's jurisdiction. Ashby said, “It takes money out of the equation, and it gives judges the discretion that they need.... I think it makes the attempt to solve or alleviate some of the concerns on both sides.” Katie Schaffer, the director of organizing at the progressive Center for Community Alternatives, called the measure a “mass incarceration” bill and said, “Sen. Ashby’s proposal would dramatically and unconscionably expand pretrial incarceration in New York state, undermining our constitutional right to the presumption of innocence.... We urge New York’s Legislature to reject this radical and regressive proposal as well as the governor’s effort to jail more Black, brown and poor people pretrial.” Gov. Kathy Hochul has not commented on Ashby's proposal, but on April 5 said, “I support the fundamental premise behind the bail laws. But we need to make sure that judges understand that they have the discretion to make the right decision in the right case.” Read more about this story in the Times Union.

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