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Hochul to lawmakers: Give judges the tools to set bail for violent offenders

Gov. Kathy Hochul will ask the state legislature to rewrite bail reform language and require judges to set a bond for repeat offenders and perpetrators of gun offenses.

Under current legislation, bail guidelines include the phrase “least restrictive means,” which often leads to interpretations based on “philosophical leanings or political leanings of a judge versus looking at common-sense, commonly accepted criteria,” Hochul said.

As a result, persons arrested after using a gun during a crime, or with an extensive criminal background, often are released without bail.

“We have felony and repeat offenders that are eligible for bail and judges are not setting bail. That doesn’t make me feel safe, that doesn’t make the people of Rochester feel safe,” Hochul said on Tuesday morning, when she called on legislators to adopt the new language during an announcement at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester.

The governor said she has supported “the underlying premise” of bail reform, agreeing with proponents that wealth determined whether the accused sat in jail or enjoyed freedom while awaiting trial.

But Hochul said the “least restrictive means” language must be removed so bail is set, ensuring violent offenders appear at trial.

“We’re not criminalizing poverty … we’re talking about protecting society,” she said.

State Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D-Rochester) said he supports the proposed change.

“One’s ZIP Code will determine one’s life expectancy based upon health care inequities and undervaluing of physical and mental health access in communities of color,” Cooney said. “But we can’t let these realities justify violence.”

He said that while bail reform was long overdue, public safety has been impacted.

“Our state law allows for those accused of violent crimes or repeat offenders to be held, and we must give our judges the tools to enforce these laws,” Cooney said.

“This isn’t a rolling back or overstep in policy. It is a surgical approach to the law, making small improvements that will give our courts clarity and keep our streets safe. It is time for us to do what Rochester and New York needs us to do.”

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