A man accused of burglary died tragically from a suspected drug overdose while awaiting his day in court. Yates County DA Todd Cassella is exploiting his death to smear bail reform by suggesting, wrongly, that jail was the best place for someone struggling with substance use disorder.
Christopher Hearn was held on unaffordable bail from October 3, 2019 until he was released on December 23. He attended his court appearances until his death on February 13, 2020. Cassella described him as being “safe in jail,” and blamed his release for his death.
Jail is not a substitute for treatment for substance use disorder, and people are not protected from the dangers of drug use as a result of incarceration.
The purpose of bail reform has been to spare people the horrors of pre-trial incarceration and to expend fewer resources on warehousing people awaiting a trial date. Reallocating resources to substance use treatment programs and away from incarceration should be a feature of our justice system, and opponents are wrong to insist, against all evidence, that jail is a solution to the public health crisis of overdose.
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