The original idea was probably a good one. The aim was to not have people stuck in prison prior to trial simply because they could not afford to post bail.
That motivation, combined with the election of a majority of liberal Democrats to the New York State Senate last year, dealt the final blow that sent thing spiraling out of control in Albany on this specific matter.
Now there is a bit of a mess on the streets of New York, with judges stripped of their right to ask alleged perpetrators to post bail so as to assure that they return to court for pre-trial meetings or for trial. All too often these are recidivists who, upon release, only cause more harm and additional damage on the streets they hail from.
“There was pressure to reform the law, and things went way too far,” says State Senator Todd Kaminsky. He adds that there is talk about revising the law and that he is hopeful that new or revised legislation will be included in the new budget bill that is scheduled to be voted on by April 1.
He says that the plan is to restore discretion to require that bail be posted in order to free a suspect, a key element to the new policy that has judges unable to ask that a bond be posted.
The problem here, as it is on the national level, is that an inordinate number of people who were jailed on offenses because they could not afford to post bond ended up being from minority communities, mostly African American and Latino.
Liberal lawmakers in Albany saw this as an unfair and imbalanced situation that needed to be addressed. The solution was to restrict the times when bail could be posted and place greater trust in alleged and would-be criminals to return to court for their hearings or trial. The short-term result has been that not only have many not returned for hearings as scheduled, but while they were back on the streets they were committing additional crimes, sometimes disturbing and violent offenses. Additionally troubling is that at the same time there has been a dramatic uptick in attacks on Jews, and many of those assaults were perpetrated by those released from custody without bail.
Senator Kaminsky voted for the new bail law but, as stated above, he says he and other lawmakers see that things have gotten out of hand and that the changes in the law went too far. Last year’s legislation was supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo and he believes the revisions in the law will be supported by the governor as well.
Considering that the new law was part of the budget process and not separate legislation, the changes in the law will in all likelihood be part of the 2020 budget process as well.
While this is important news, the senator adds that there are a lot of points of special interest to our community coming out of Albany as well. Among those are increased STEM funding for yeshivas and additional millions of dollars that will be added to the budget not just for our schools this time, but for shuls as well.
Our conversation then shifts to Democratic presidential politics on which the senator says that he has already made known his support for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and that he believes he’s the one who can defeat President Trump in November. Our conversation took place before last week’s debate where Mr. Bloomberg was steamrolled by his opponents, specifically Senators Sanders and Warren. It wasn’t a pretty display for the mayor, to say the least. They were hoping for a comeback in this week’s debate.
So our representatives in Albany have a lot of work cut out for them. Todd Kaminsky has emerged as a unique and refreshing personality who knows how to serve his constituents from within a complicated system. He’s a leader and an innovator who knows how to get things done. Whether it’s the terribly needed bail reform or security aid for our yeshivas and other schools, Senator Kaminsky is on the case and committed to delivering results.
A Talk With Laura
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran was impressed. Her close ties to the Jewish community here on Long Island and our close ties to Israel apparently roused her curiosity about this relationship, and she decided it would be even more eye-opening for her to observe that dynamic up close.
To that end, at her initiative she traveled to Israel two weeks ago with Rabbi Hershel Billet of the Young Israel of Woodmere. I spoke with County Executive Curran last week about that trip and her impressions. She starts by saying that it was not her first trip to Israel and that before entering politics she was a reporter for the New York Daily News and traveled to Israel on assignment back in 1995.
“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “The country has changed so much over all these years.”
Laura Curran added that she spent most of her four days in the country in Jerusalem but also traveled to the Golan Heights and the city of Sderot near the border with the Gaza Strip. She met with the mayors of Sderot, Efrat, and Gush Etzion.
Ms. Curran says that from our New York perspective one might think that the Israeli mayors’ major consideration is security, but, she says, that was not the case. Security is high on the agenda of all of Israel, but the Israeli officials discussed other aspects of municipal management as well. Ms. Curran adds that she discussed schools, social services in the communities, and even garbage collection with the mayors.
The county executive says that in the aftermath of anti-Semitic assaults and incidents in New York City she had the opportunity, along with Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, to meet with leadership and community members in our shuls and yeshivas. She says that in almost every forum, the challenges that Israel faces on security matters would be raised by someone at these meetings. That’s when she spoke with Rabbi Billet about making the trip to take a closer look at how Israel functions and deals with these issues.
“Laura Curran is an important New York State official,” said Rabbi Billet. “She also oversees, as Nassau County executive, an area of the state with a significant Jewish population, and this trip, which was initiated by her, supplied her with a new and unique perspective on our community’s concern for and attachment to the Jewish state,” he said.
Those who met her in Israel said that she had no hesitation about visiting East Jerusalem or Efrat, which some officials would hesitate to visit because it is located in so-called disputed territories, which we all know is a misnomer. Ms. Curran said that she was especially impressed with the police station just outside of Jaffa Gate and the expansive security apparatus at the Israeli police department’s disposal in order to keep order in a contentious part of the city.
Additionally interesting about the trip to Israel was her impression of her visit to the United Hatzalah headquarters in Jerusalem and her talk with its founder and director, Eli Beer. Her observation about Hatzalah, in addition to the great medical contribution they make to all of Israel, is how the various groups of people work together with one sole focus — saving lives.
Ms. Curran said that on her short visit to the headquarters she was able to observe how chareidim work with Druze and how they all work with Muslim volunteers and so on. She said that this alone was a telling sign of a great future that lies ahead for the Jewish state.
Laura Curran’s op-ed about the trip is available at 5TJT.com. When asked to sum up her overall reaction to the experience, Laura Curran said that she’s ready to go to Israel again.