Twenty-nine inmates at the Nassau County Correctional Facility in East Meadow were released from the jail on Dec. 31 going into Jan. 1 thanks to a new series of bail reform laws.
The series of laws, which were placed in the New York State budget and approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo, includes the ban of cash bail for those accused of misdemeanor and non-violent crimes.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder outlined the operational plan for the release of pre-trial detainees from the Nassau County Correctional Facility.
“My number one focus is to keep protecting our residents while enforcing the law,” Curran said. “Crime is at historic lows and the continued safety of our residents is crucial. I want to make sure all residents know that all Nassau County agencies have been extremely diligent in preparing for the successful and smooth transition to the new bail reform laws, with the safety of our residents and our law enforcement as the guidepost.”
Two days prior to the bail reform’s initiation, Curran officially signed a piece of legislation to create the Office of Crime Victim Advocate. The office will have an annual budget of about $890,000.
“The new Office of Crime Victim Advocate will offer legal assistance and support to victims and witnesses who may be affected under the new law,” Curran said.
In late 2019, Curran directed agencies to prepare for the safe and orderly transition to the new bail reform laws. Across all impacted departments, the county has been developing a robust plan to comply with these new laws, which included an increase in staffing levels, which started on Dec. 31 at the sheriff’s department to facilitate a higher than average number of discharges.
Additionally, the county assisted all pre-trial detainees to travel to their post-release destinations by increasing accessibility for detainees to make phone calls in order to make travel arrangements, controlling the parking lot during family pickups and increasing NICE bus service on New Year’s Eve along the route that runs on Carman Avenue to accommodate individuals who need transportation back home. To ensure everyone has a place to go, the Department of Social Services (DSS) will step in for assistance to find temporary housing.
“The women and men of the sheriff’s department have worked diligently through this holiday season in coordination with various other agencies to ensure that the release of persons from the Correctional Center as a result of the bail reform legislation will be accomplished in a safe, controlled and organized manner,” Curran said.
However, not everyone is pleased with the way Nassau County is dealing with the state’s new bail reform package. Nassau County Legislator John R. Ferretti Jr., who represents East Meadow and Levittown, is furious about Curran’s plan for not only the initial releases, but for upcoming ones.
“Nassau County and the county executive didn’t set forth any plan as to how this is going to be implemented,” he said. “I called on the county executive to come out with a plan. Within 24 hours of my press conference, she released a plan.”
The sheriff’s department will continue to work with the DSS to ensure that individuals will be released with any necessary services they may need. The DSS has provided jail staff with information regarding the types of services available and the criteria for eligibility for those services, as well as applications for services. Individuals identified for release can begin the application process immediately.
Coordination between the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, police department and probation will be ongoing as officials monitor compliance with court appearance schedules and discovery requirements.
“If someone makes a terrorist threat, they’re going to be let out without bail,” Ferretti said. “They’ll be arraigned and told to come back. Selling weapons on school grounds is another one.
“Bail is intended to be meant as collateral to keep people from coming back when they’re supposed to go to trial for the crime they allegedly committed. As an attorney and a citizen, I think it’s outrageous and heinous.”
Curran said that she will closely monitor the transition of the new bail reform laws and will maintain ongoing communication with all departments.
“I will maintain constant contact with all departments affected to make sure we are taking every step possible to ensure the residents’ safety while complying with the new laws,” she said.
According to the Legislature, because of these bail reform laws, gang members, people charged with crimes such as criminal possession of a firearm on school grounds, criminal sale of a controlled substance, aggravated vehicular manslaughter and more will be released.
President of the Nassau County Detectives Association John Wighaus also weighed in on the state’s new bail reform laws saying that this new law puts law abiding citizens in danger.
“In April 2019, New York State passed dangerous criminal justice reform, strictly curtailing the use of cash bail, pretrial detention and overhauling the current rules of discovery,” Wighaus said. “The bail reform is an imminent danger to the residents of Nassau County and all the residents of New York State. As we are in an opioid epidemic with many of our children dying from drug overdoses, there is a must release for all drug sales and possession charges with the sole exception of operating as a major drug trafficker. These drug dealers will be back on the street the next day continuing their illegal drug sales in our county.”
Anthony Murray contributed to this report.