Curran calls for changes to bail reform in op-ed piece in Daily News

Robert Pelaez
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran submitted an op-ed piece to the Daily News advocating for changes to the state-wide bail reform laws. (Photo courtesy of the county executive's office)

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has called for changes to the state’s bail reform law that was implemented on Jan. 1.

The law, passed in April, eliminated pretrial detention and optional cash bail in an estimated 90 percent of cases.

If properly implemented, a conservative estimate of the legislation’s impact projects a 40 percent reduction overall in the state’s pretrial jail population, saving taxpayers money.

In an op-ed article in The Daily News last week, Curran addressed a pair of viewpoints that she said have “dominated” recent discussion of the statewide bail reform.

“The first [viewpoint] is that criminal justice reform is long overdue, and the second is that the reforms passed went too far too fast,” Curran wrote. “I agree with both of these views and believe we owe the residents we serve immediate changes to the law to better protect them.”

According to county officials, more than 175 people accused of misdemeanors and  “nonviolent felonies” were released without bail as they await trial. 

Curran expressed opposition to releasing people who have committed certain crimes. 

“Someone charged with burglarizing multiple homes would be immediately released since bail is no longer permitted for that offense,” Curran wrote.  “A defendant whose arrest resulted in a police seizure of five kilos of fentanyl would also be released; the defendant will be back out in our communities and able to continue dealing. This is wrong.”

Nassau County Legislator John Ferretti (R-Levittown) was one of the first county officials to  voice a need for changes to the bail reform laws before they were implemented.

Ferretti said his office received calls from concerned citizens wondering what actions will be implemented to regulate the release of inmates.

“Very close by the Correctional Facility is Nassau University Medical Center, Eisenhower Park, and two colleges, and East Meadow High School across the street,” Ferretti said.

“We should follow the lead of other states that have passed criminal justice reform by granting judges the power to consider public safety before releasing a suspect back onto the street,” Curran wrote.

According to officials, a total of $3.9 million in this year’s county budget is allocated to help agencies comply with the newly implemented laws.  

Of that amount, $890,000 will be used to establish the Office of Crime Victim Advocate.

The new department was created by the county to provide legal services to those affected by crimes.

As of 2018, the United States was the world leader in incarceration rates with almost seven million people under criminal justice supervision, according to the Sentencing Project, an organization established in 1986 that conducts research and advocacy for criminal justice reform.

Other states such as Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Colorado, Illinois and Louisiana have all adopted a range of criminal justice reforms since 2018.

“Nationwide, Americans have reached a bipartisan consensus that we must fix a criminal justice system that has too often tilted unequally against people of color and those with fewer resources,” Curran wrote. “We can and we must build on this consensus with smart reforms that make the justice system more equitable, save taxpayers money and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

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