Law Enforcement-Led "Consortium" Wants To Reinstate Failed Policies

A law enforcement-led “Consortium for Safe Communities” claims it wants to “fix bail reform”.

Fact Check: False

The Briefing

A law enforcement-led “Consortium for Safe Communities” claims it wants to “fix bail reform”. But the Consortium’s proposals make clear that this organization wants to return to a failed policy that punished people for being poor and made New York less safe. The Consortium is led by Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter, an opponent of truth and public safety, who regularly misleads the public about bail reform.

Baxter misleads New Yorkers about bail reform and public safety

Baxter’s public statements about bail reform are riddled with misinformation and half-truths. He falsely claims that bail reform has produced “violent consequences” that “have reached unprecedented levels.” Baxter’s fearmongering has no basis in fact. The truth is that every study released about bail reform has proven that the policy maximizes freedom and has no connection to any increases in crime. Rearrests for violent felonies remain incredibly rare.

Baxter and the Consortium claim they represent the “pro-public safety movement.” This is false. Pretrial freedom is the true public safety policy. Bail reform in New York has led to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers spending time with family and keeping their jobs instead of experiencing the debilitating effects of pretrial incarceration because they could not buy their freedom. Pretrial incarceration, which Baxter advocates for, makes all of us less safe. Not only is pretrial incarceration deadly, it produces housing insecurity, produces financial losses and instability, harms families and children, and increases the likelihood of future arrest.

Proposing failed policies

The Consortium claims it wants to “fix bail reform.” But a review of the Consortium’s proposed policy changes clearly demonstrates that what the law enforcement-led organization truly desires is to end bail reform in New York and return to a wealth-based, unfair system where people must buy their own freedom.  Whatever the organization is called, law enforcement voices constantly argue for one thing: more incarceration for people presumed innocent, no matter the effects on their lives or our communities.

Baxter and his colleagues want to implement a “public safety standard”, which is a dangerousness standard by a different name. New York has never had a dangerousness standard, for good reason. Dangerousness standards – which allows judges to detain who they subjectively determine is a “threat to the community” – produce racist results and increase jail populations, while creating more ambiguity and opacity in the criminal legal system. Any dangerousness standard would only further exacerbate racial disparities in New York’s jails, where Black and brown people make up 73 percent of New Yorkers incarcerated in jail but 36 percent of the state’s population. 

Even more outrageous is Baxter’s proposed “repeat offender standard.” This draconian policy would allow law enforcement to detain any person re-arrested for almost any alleged crime and subject them to nearly a week of pretrial detention before a judge reviews their case. It is not uncommon for law enforcement officials to bemoan due process, but this proposal is particularly alarming as it brazenly flies in the face of federal and state constitutional protections. 

A previous law enforcement-led campaign to roll back New York’s bail reform laws led to the “harm plus harm” provision which allows judges to set bail on charges that would otherwise be bail ineligible when a person has an open case and is rearrested, and each case involves harm to an identifiable person or property. The law makes clear that desk appearances tickets are included in the definition of an “open case”. So, even if we are to accept the incorrect premise that judges ought to detain people re-arrested for alleged crimes, judges already have the authority to detain people through the “harm plus harm” provision.

The Consortium also announced its opposition to parole for aging prisoners, demonstrating their overall antipathy for public safety and commitment to failed public safety solutions. A bill being considered in the State Legislature and Senate would allow for more opportunities for parole for incarcerated people over the age of 55 who have been incarcerated at least 15 years in prison. This is a common sense policy. Aging prison populations mean skyrocketing taxpayer costs for health care. Keeping older people in prison undermines public health by worsening chronic conditions and shortening life expectancies. The older someone is, the less likely they are to be rearrested, and people released over the age of 65 are the least likely of any age group to be rearrested. Parole is an important tool to increase public health and safety, and reduce our spending on incarceration. But Baxter and the Consortium do not seem to care.

Law enforcement is to blame for any “confusion”

The Consortium claims it wants to ensure bail reform laws are “easily understood” by everyone. Baxter’s misguided and nonsensical policy proposals described above provide evidence that law enforcement does not actually care to understand the ins and outs of state law; rather, they just want more people in jail. Any confusion that exists about bail reform can be traced back to law enforcement and elected officials who purposely fearmonger, obfuscate and lie about bail reform in order to undermine the modest reforms.

Baxter has long been an opponent of truth and justice. Even before bail reform went into effect, he fearmongered about outlandish hypothetical scenarios divorced from reality. Since bail reform went into effect, he has lied about bail reform being tied to a rise in shootings in his jurisdiction and supported misguided attempts to reduce car thefts through increased pretrial detention, suggesting that jail is a magic adult timeout that will produce “accountability” and reduce crime. Put simply, he is not a credible authority to discuss the viability of bail reform in New York.

Story Link

Links in Rome Sentinel and the Utica Observer Dispatch

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