Organizers push for bail reform on Freedom Day

June 19, 2018 07:26 AM

Advocacy groups across the state are expected to march outside of jails, government buildings, and courthouses throughout the day Tuesday, calling for bail reform.

Locally, a group will march outside of Rochester City Hall.


Bail reform advocates say that more than 1,300 people are sitting in the Monroe County Jail right now, and most of them are legally innocent – not convicted but behind bars because they can't afford to pay bail.

June 19th, also known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day, celebrates the abolition of slavery, which happened more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Earlier this year, News10NBC reported Governor Andrew Cuomo is looking to get rid of cash bail for those who commit a misdemeanor or a nonviolent felony.

Advocates say 70 percent of people in New York jails are legally innocent but because of the state's bail, speedy trial, and discovery laws, people who can't afford to pay are stuck behind bars.

Ashley Gantt is a part of the local group organizing the protest and she says this is a severe flaw in the state's justice system.

"We have more people in New York state... 25,000 people sitting in jail -- not because they've been convicted of a crime or because they're guilty but simply because they can't afford bail," Gantt said. "Inadvertently, what you have is a war on the poor. We have people sitting in jails and as a result of that, people are taking plea deals because they want to get out of jail."

Those against bail reform say it could lead to repeat offenses and would completely change the criminal justice system.

The Juneteenth Protest is expected to start outside Rochester City Hall on Church Street at 6 p.m. Tuesday.


Kaci Jones

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