Local religious leaders support bail reform: ‘Good news for the poor’

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Local religious leaders are calling on Albany to leave bail reform alone.

The law removes cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Members of the RocACTS Religious Leaders Caucus said bail reform is good news for the poor. They said now everyone can await trial outside of prison not just those who can afford bail.

Some who oppose it have said bail reform is putting violent criminals back on the streets. Reverend Lane Campbell said this narrative targets poor people and people of color.

“Those who can afford bail have always been back on our streets regardless, but this narrative from our leadership is coded in this racist and classist narrative we see all too often in our communities,” Reverend Campbell said.

Rabbi Drorah Setel, also a member of the new Police Accountability Board, said she doesn’t see the issue with people being released after arrest. She said people who could make bail were out on the streets before this reform.

“In other words, somehow people who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to pay bail they’re being out in the community is worse or different from people who can make bail, that’s unacceptable,” she said.

The law has been met with a lot of backlash in the law enforcement community. Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan said while he agrees reform is needed, this isn’t how to do it.

“We don’t want people sitting in jail for a year on a disorderly conduct charge that’s not fair to anyone either. We’re not talking about rich or poor we’re talking about safety for everyone let’s come up with a system that protects everyone’s safety,” Chief Phelan said.

Pastor James Simmons said it is about rich and poor.

“Now poor people who are presumed innocent until proven guilty can await trial out of prison just like the rich,” he said.

Chief Phelan said police are recommending the list of crimes that are not eligible for bail be reconsidered. He also wants judges to once again have the freedom to decide if bail is necessary.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he’s open to working with the legislature to revamp the law.

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