MALONE –– Shock and disbelief were expressed by some residents as they read the list of crimes that people would be issued appearance tickets for, instead of being jailed in lieu of bail, under the new state bail reform laws.
Inside the Centenary United Methodist Church in the village of Malone, religious leaders and community members sat down with Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill to talk about the bail reform law that took effect Jan 1. The informational session was organized by the North Franklin Ministerial Association.
“This is not justice. Someone could rape one of my children tomorrow and walk, how is this OK?” asked one woman at the meeting. Rape is not one of the crimes for which bail is no longer imposed, but several assault charges involving children and promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child are among the charges for which bail can no longer be set.
At the meeting, Mulverhill handed out an eight-page document listing the crimes for which judges would be prevented from imposing bail. Many say they were stunned when reading it.
“We are talking about endangering the welfare of a child, possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child,” said Centenary Pastor Heidi Chamberlin.
The reform act eliminates bail for all misdemeanor and nonviolent felonies and includes provisions that require district attorneys to turn over all discovery material -- evidence the prosecution has uncovered related to the offense -- as well as the names and contact information of witnesses within 15 days of the suspect’s arraignment.
Republicans in the state Legislature have called for implementation of the law to be postponed until concerns about its effects can be addressed, and even Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo –– who included the reforms as an amendment in his 2019-20 state budget, has said the law may require some fine-tuning.
Other Democrats have accused opponents of the reforms of “fear-mongering.”
But a young girl named Brianna, who was at the meeting, said the fear already exists. She said she was held hostage and nearly killed by a man she once knew.
Chamberlin provided support for Brianna after the incident and has been helping her recover, but said that with the new bail reform law, she fears for her safety.
“He will be released on an appearance ticket, that is baloney,” said Chamberlin. “I have been the one that has hugged her and I have listened to her cry. I have listened to her cry, just today because she is frighted that when this guy gets out of jail that he will come and find her,”
Mulverhill says he understands her frustration and encouraged church leaders to continue to advocate for changes in the law, but some wonder what if anything that will do.
“It is like spitting in the wind,” said Chamberlin.
Next week, Mulverhill said, he, along with about 50 other sheriffs, will be traveling to Albany to voice their opposition to the bail reform law.
He says while the law may be good for some cities, it is not for Malone.
“A lot of the issues that were suppose to be addressed in this bill were out of metropolitan areas like New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester,” said Mulverhill.
Mulverhill says the reforms will hurt more people than they will help.
“If someone comes in with mental health issues and they commit a crime, no matter how big or small, they are going to be released and they are not going to be evaluated and they are not going to have a chance to get into a program,” said Mulverhill. I think that is one of the downfalls of this law that I really do not think was considered.”
Currently, Mulverhill said, about 60 inmates are in the Franklin County Jail,
“If we can subject these people to no bail, then there is no jail time, but there are consequences to that,” said Mulverhill.
While the population maybe lower now than at times in the past, Mulverhill said expects it to increase once people who get those appearance tickets go to court and are sentenced.
“What is going to happen is those people who are not in jail on bail right now are eventually going to get sentenced, so my numbers are going to go up,” said Mulverhill.
In the meantime, Mulverhill is encouraging anyone who is against the bail reform law to contact their local legislators.