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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Opinions > Guest Editorial

See something, say nothing

The Real Problem with New York's Criminal Justice Reform

Feb 6, 2020

By Eric Chaboty - sullivan county undersheriff

All of New York State is abuzz lately with the term “Bail-Reform.” In reality, so called bail reform is just a small part of the larger criminal justice reform package that was rammed through the legislature last year by hiding it in the text of the annual state budget. We first got a hint of what was coming when we learned that mugshots of defendants who were arrested would no longer be provided by state law enforcement agencies.
By mid-summer, we started hearing about bail reform and by early fall we started seeing published lists of the offenses that now qualified for the automatic release of defendants without bail.
Citizens were shocked to see crimes like robbery, burglary, manslaughter, animal torture and child pornography on the list. Almost every single drug offense listed in the penal law now requires that a defendant be issued an appearance ticket and released.
With fatal overdoses at an all-time high, what could possibly justify the re- lease of drug dealers back onto the streets of our community so they can continue to sell their poison?
While the news media is distracted with stories related to bail reform, the real disaster is just now taking shape. Beginning January 1, a new law took effect that covers so called “discovery,” which is evidence that a defendant is entitled to receive a copy of prior to trial.
Now if you report a crime, within 15 days of the defendant's arraignment on the criminal charge, the District Attorney's office must turn over your personal information, such as phone number, address, any emails or text messages connected to the case and video from your phone, home or business.
The police must also run a criminal history check (RAP sheet) on YOU and make that part of the evidence package. Under the new law, every defendant will now get a copy of the arresting officer's disciplinary record. The most disturbing feature of the new law is that defendants will have the right to return to the scene of the crime in order to prepare their defense. Can you imagine a burglar or rapist being allowed back into a victim's home in order to take photographs and measurements?
The new law also provides for millions of tax dollars in new funding for public defenders' offices across the state but gives nothing to district attorneys or law enforcement to meet the added burdens and deadlines that have been imposed. It is clear that the deck has been intentionally stacked against law abiding citizens and crime victims.
In the end public safety will be compromised. The term ‘see something, say something' will become obsolete.
Citizens will be afraid to report crimes or step forward as witnesses. Those who do will be at the mercy of criminals who will now receive their personal information. With less people reporting crime, crime will appear to decrease. Fewer defendants will be arrested and held accountable for their actions. The criminal justice reformers will happily point to the decrease in the jail population and say, ‘look, the reforms are working!'

Eric Chaboty was sworn in as Sullivan County Undersheriff in 2005 along with Sheriff Mike Schiff. Chaboty began his career with the New York City Police Department and attained the rank of Line Sergeant with New York State Police before joining the Sheriff's Office.

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