A series of forums to inform residents of upcoming criminal justice reforms approved by New York State will be held during December and include top Rensselaer County elected officials and law enforcement.
The forums will include County Executive Steve McLaughlin, District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly and Sheriff Pat Russo, along with members of the County Legislature, and will be held in three locations on three dates.
The reforms including sweeping changes to prosecutions, bail and incarceration and have drawn controversy from prosecutors and law enforcement on both sides of the political spectrum across the state. The changes are set to take effect on January 1, 2020.
“As elected officials, we share the great concern expressed across the state from elected officials and prosecutors about these reforms, which we believe, in many instances, will jeopardize public safety. We want to do our part to inform the public, get input on these issues from residents and advocate to our elected officials,” said County Executive McLaughlin.
“The laws were passed without input from prosecutors and law enforcement. There will be unintended consequences as we attempt to meet the mandate with no state funding. I am concerned about public safety and I want the public to understand what we are facing,” said District Attorney Donnelly.
“These reforms will mark a significant change in how the law is enforced and how those charged with a crime are dealt with in the system. Residents would be well-advised to learn more about these reforms and the potential effects on our county,” said Sheriff Russo.
“The Legislature has expressed concerns with the criminal justice reforms through several pieces of legislation. The public needs to know how they, and their family, could be effected if they were ever the victim of crime,” said Chairman of the Legislature Mike Stammel.
Under the reforms, most criminal offenses will not result in bail upon arraignment, unless they are for alleged violent offenses. Prosecutors will be required to disclose crucial evidence just 15 days after arrest, along with information about victims.
The forums will be held on three dates in three locations, including:
Monday, December 9, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Rensselaer County Legislature chambers, County Office Building, 1600 7th Avenue, downtown Troy.
Thursday, December 12, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Schaghticoke Town Hall, 290 Skyline Drive, Melrose.
Wednesday, December 18, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Schodack Town Hall, 265 Schuurman Road, Castleton.
The cost of the reforms in Rensselaer County is expected to be significant, with new costs expected to be in the several hundreds of thousands, cumulatively.
Along with criticism from prosecutors and law enforcement, mayors, county elected officials and some state lawmakers from both sides have cited significant increases in costs for prosecution and related law enforcement. There have also been calls for a delay in implementing the new reforms from the state and local levels.