Community members and leaders hold conversation to discuss cash bail reform

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Bail reform has been widely debated and divided many in our community since the first reforms were passed in 2019.

“People need to remember that bail reform was enacted to try and make the system fairer,” said Former Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green, who also served as the head of the NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services. “We had a system before where depending on how much money you had, depended on what kind of justice you got.”

Tuesday night, community leaders tried to answer these questions: What’s right, what’s wrong and what’s next?

“This was an attempt, at least with lower-level crimes and nonviolent crimes to put everyone on an equal footing,” said Green who is now a professor of criminal justice at RIT.

The panel ranged from law enforcement to city council all in agreement that there’s too much gun violence in our community and all are looking for the next step.

Green said bail reform was enacted to try to make the system fairer and help reduce racial disparities.

“Monroe County, it’s even worse. It’s 14% of the population is black, but 71% of the people who go to prison are black,” Green said. “Bail reform was an attempt to try and reduce one of the factors, structural factors in the system that lead to those disparities and before we roll it back, I think we should want some really solid proof that the reason we’re rolling it back is, in fact, connected to bail reform.”

Green also says data and evidence show making changes to bail laws, – will not solve Rochester’s shootings.

There was a study done by the Times-Union in Albany that basically concluded there wasn’t a connection between the spike in gun violence without reform, so until that type of evidence was present, I don’t see moving backward on issues trying to address racial disparities,”

Rochester city councilman Michael Patterson said he’s not against bail reform but said too many black and brown people in the city are dying from gun violence.

“I’m not talking about bail reform, I’m talking about a dangerousness standard tied specifically to gun charges,” city councilmember Michael Patterson said. “That’s the issue, that’s the concern.”

A “dangerousness standard” has to be considered by judges when making bail decisions to help get the violence under control.

“It’s unfair and unjust,” Patterson said. “That one gunman whose actions rise to a federal standard is detained while another gunman whose actions don’t rise to the federal state gets bail and is allowed to go back into our community and terrorize us.”

Another topic discussed Tuesday night was the unfair impact on people of lower income when it comes to bail reform.