Law enforcement officials, anti-violence advocates propose changes to criminal justice reform

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Emotions were running high Thursday afternoon, as lawmakers and New Yorkers demanded changes to the state’s criminal justice reform laws.

They say the laws that are meant to make criminal justice equal are making communities more dangerous.

"We’ve known for a long time that change needed to happen. But the changes that did happen have not benefited the community at large. It has benefited some, but it has not benefited the very community that the advocates and those who wanted this change claimed were going to change," said Albany County District Attorney David Soares.

The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, along with district attorneys and anti-violence advocates from around the state, offered their proposals Thursday at a press conference in Albany.

Police chiefs from Albany, Buffalo and Syracuse among others, signed onto a letter calling for several reforms. The proposals include changes to bail laws, criminal discovery, juvenile courts and how police issue appearance tickets.

They’re calling on the legislature to eliminate cash bail, to let judges consider a defendant’s public safety risk in setting bail, and to let judges see the criminal history of defendants under 18 years old, among other changes. Recent reforms have also changed requirements for discovery, which they say is leading to criminals walking free because the prosecution can’t meet strict discovery guidelines meant to protect the defendant.

"Those of us who are supposed to be protecting, consoling and removing the violence from our communities are left with our hands in our pockets, feeling helpless that we can’t do the job that we were put on this earth to do, and that’s to bring justice to families," said Soares.

From district attorneys to mothers who lost their kids to violence, all believe reasonable tweaks to reform could prevent a lot of violence.

"This violence should not be allowed in our communities, and these perpetrators of violence should not be unleashed back in our community neighborhoods," said Jackie Rowe-Adams, Co-Founder of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E.

Gov. Hochul declined to take a stance when asked about the letter Thursday.