ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Some leaders in law enforcement and politics remain concerned for public safety and hope for changes to New York’s bail reform laws next session. Advocates for bail reform fear rollbacks will halt their intended progress.
D’Juan Collins, a Manhattan resident and member of VOCAL-NY, advocates for criminal justice reforms ever since being charged with drug possession in 2007, before the state’s new bail laws existed.
“I wasn’t able to make bail, and as a result, as a parent, I wasn’t able to care for my son,” Collins told NEWS10, “so I lost my son to the foster care system.”
Collins said he would’ve used the time before court to make arrangements for his son to be with family. He was released from prison in 2013.
Today, he waits for his court date for a separate domestic violence charge, which became eligible for bail again after the reforms were amended in 2020. He said after 15 months at Rikers, he was able to make bail through a lawsuit. Collins has since reunited with his son and gotten involved with advocacy work while he waits to face the judge.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for people once they can get out on bail to back involved with their communities, as opposed to keeping someone in jail,” Collins said. “Why not let them come on out and be productive members of society?”
However, there’s another side to the issue that needs attention, according to Rensselaer County District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly.
“We are seeing people not come back to court,” Donnelly explained. “Bench warrants are not being issued in lower courts, so we’ve got victims who are waiting for justice and we can’t give it to them.”
Donnelly hopes that when lawmakers return to Albany for session in January, they consider these concerns, as well as expanding judicial discretion.
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt agrees.
“If you have someone in front of you, and this is their 5th arrest, or this is their 3rd arrest in the last several days, that person should be held,” Ortt said regarding judges having the ability to use discretion, “that person is clearly a risk to themselves or the community.”
Ortt recently penned a letter to New York City Mayor-Elect Eric Adams to offer assistance and partnership in changing New York’s bail laws.