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Goodell, Borrello Bill Finds Criminal Justice Reform Middle Ground

Legislation co-sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, to give judges more discretion on bail is unlikely to receive much deliberation in Albany simply because it was introduced by a pair of Republicans.

That’s too bad, because the bill makes a lot of sense.

The Chautauqua County Republicans propose to allow judges to take into account a defendant’s flight risk to avoid prosecution, the risk of failing to appear based on a person’s prior criminal convictions or prior failures to appear in court, and the danger a person poses to community safety. Also, the bills require judges to review the status of every defendant that is being held pending bail on a regular basis to ensure that defendants are not incarcerated for an extended time period simply because of an inability to post bail.

In other words, Goodell and Borrello propose a criminal justice reform bill that has an eye on those who are sent to jail as well as the safety of the general public. Democrats in the state Legislature have tried twice to come up with criminal justice reforms that were fair to the accused and the general public. Both attempts, though, neglected to allow judges to consider a person’s risk to the public when deciding whether or not someone accused of a crime should be released or sent to jail until their next court date. According to the Manhattan Institute, New York is the only state to tackle bail reform and not give judges such discretion.

If Democrats do hope the third time is the charm to get bail reform right, we hope they co-opt the ideas Borrello and Goodell have introduced — but we won’t hold our breath.

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