State and local authorities call for changes in bail reform | Local News


ELIZABETHTOWN – Essex State and County officials fear that controversial statewide bail reform measures have made it more difficult to reduce and prosecute crimes such as trafficking in drug.

At a Friday morning press conference at the Essex County Government Center, State Senator Dan Stec (R-Queensbury) and Assembly Member Matt Simpson (R-Horicon) were joined by the Essex County Supervisory Board Chairman Shaun Gillilland (R-Willsboro), Moriah Town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava (R-Moriah) and Essex County District Attorney Kristi Sprague will call for improvements to the system.

Bail reform measures that took effect on January 1, 2020 eliminated cash bail for most non-violent crimes and largely removed judicial discretion. Subsequent updates to the law have allowed judges to impose a cash bond in more situations.


The group of Republican officials highlighted the August 31 arrest of 12 people in Moriah, many of whom had previously been apprehended on similar charges of possession and / or distribution of drugs such as fentanyl and heroin, as an example of how the new laws could be a factor that makes it difficult to fight illegal drug trafficking.

“The legislation was poorly designed,” said Gillilland, adding that he was concerned about the effect bail reform might have on the citizens of Essex County and New York.

Stec categorized the legislation as a “train wreck”. He said neither the state’s District Attorneys Board nor the Sheriffs Association, which he has both classified as bipartisan, had been asked to give advice prior to implementation.

“I have six district attorneys and six sheriffs in my district who have never been consulted. This legislation was due to a young man from Rikers Island in prison for stealing a backpack. The system failed him and needed improvement, but it was used as a stepping stone, ”Stec said.


The reform measure was included in the state budget, Stec said.

“It was a classic case of revolving door politics. This is an opportunity to right a wrong and give judges more discretion.

“I hear about it from my colleagues in the Assembly,” said Simpson. “When someone is arrested for drugs, this is a great opportunity to step in where they can reflect in prison and get sober.

“We have to support the sheriffs and the prosecutors.”

Stec and Simpson recently sent a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul asking him to work on developing legislation that allows judges more discretion in dealing with drug offenses.

Tied hands

Sprague, a resident of Moriah, insisted that her blood pressure sometimes rose when people asked her, “Why can’t you do more?” “

“When I try to explain, they say it makes no sense. We need justifiable discretion in a judge’s decision and take all the factors into account.”

Sprague said there is a list of qualified offenses for judges and district attorneys to follow, and said that should not be the case.

“The witnesses are afraid. What message are we sending? Our hands are tied and the balance is out of balance.

“We can make sure that conditions such as drug addiction are taken into account. Many services are available. We are missing the opportunity to help them. “

She also pointed out that the laws make it more difficult to deal with drug cartels.


Scozzafava said people in his community, especially the elderly, live in fear.

“This (legislation) has left public safety aside. Our prosecutor, police and judges are doing all they can to deal with the drug situation, ”he said.

“I’ve seen too many overdose deaths. I understand that drug addicts need help. When they break into homes and sell drugs, they overstep. People get scared and settle down. security cameras. “

He feared that citizens would start to take matters into their own hands.

“Something has to change,” he said. “People are frustrated and emotions run high. It’s madness.

Stec said that at the end of the day people want public safety.

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