Erie County, NY – Efforts to eliminate cash bail for non-violent misdemeanor offenses has gained ground across the nation in recent years. Advocates point to the cascading effect that being confined has on individuals and their families.
As they wait for hearings, they are exposed to potentially dangerous jail conditions and receive subpar medical treatment. Many lose their jobs and housing. These measures are expected to save money as county jails are not required to feed or house low risk offenders who simply cannot afford their bail but are also not a danger to the general population. It would also allow for appropriate medical treatment and rehabilitation measures to start immediately if offenses were drug or substance related.
Prison type facilities often lack the treatment options to adequately deal with many major medical issues. Legislator April Baskin, Majority Leader, and Chair of the Public Safety Committee, submitted an amended resolution from her original resolution, submitted in March that would support reform in the bail system. In the resolution, Baskin also notes the county has successful alternative options for bail like our supervised release program.
Cashless bail for non-violent misdemeanors such as petty theft, trespassing or expired licenses has found bipartisan support in the US Senate, and the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has also recognized the impact it could have on both fairness and fiscal savings.
“I support justice and due process. People who are not even convicted of crimes should not be spending long periods of time incarcerated unless we have a reason to believe they are violent or likely to continue to re-offend. This is another step towards equality for all of the citizens of Erie County who could someday be subject to our criminal justice system,” remarked Baskin.
“Erie County provides funding for programs that can be very beneficial to those awaiting trial, and I believe that we should continue to support and make these services accessible for the people who need them the most. This just doesn’t happen inside a jail cell.”
Legislator Baskin was joined in committee discussion by Bob Keating, the Erie County Budget Director, who remarked that this measure would save Erie County money by decreasing the amount of funding required to operate the jails which typically hold accused offenders pretrial.
Scott Zylka from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office was also in attendance. The resolution will stay in committee for further discussion, but Baskin is committed to seeing that the item is given a full vote in a future session of the legislature.