Governor proposes to remove “least restrictive means” standard from bail reform law

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – News10NBC obtained a letter pleading for the state to remove the “least restrictive means” standard in the bail reform law so that judges are more likely to keep alleged violent, repeat offenders in jail.

The letter signed by 128 people with titles like sheriff, chief and pastor and names like Bello, Duffy and Wegman.

But the Rochester mayor’s name isn’t among the signatures.

The mayor’s spokeswoman said Mayor Evans supports this bail law change, he talks to the governor and state lawmakers about it all the time, so he didn’t think he needed to add his name to the letter.

The letter, written by the Consortium for Safe Communities, asked state lawmakers to support removing the least restrictive means standard for bail on serious, violent crimes.

“We must act” the letter reads. “A community cannot and will not thrive unless and until our people feel safe.”

“I applaud the membership of the Consortium for Safe Communities (CSC) for standing up and being heard. This is an unprecedented group of individuals from all walks of life who came together to ask for help for their community,” Sheriff Todd Baxter wrote in a statement. “Last year, police took hundreds of illegal guns off the streets in Monroe County. Almost half of those arrested were released without any intervention in their lives. I will not stand for lawlessness and diminished public safety. We will continue to work with our government partners to address crime.”

Monday at the Boys and Girls Club on Genesee Street, Governor Kathy Hochul called for the removal of the least restrictive means standard.

“We’re talking about protecting society in a way that people would think is common sense,” she said.
The mayor’s name isn’t with the letter, but he was with the governor.

“I whole heartedly, I whole heartedly, support the governor and her budget that she has put forth to the legislature,” Mayor Evans said at the event.
The governor said not every state lawmaker supports removing the bail standard but Democratic State Senator Jeremy Cooney does.

“Because the neighborhoods I represent, public safety isn’t a data point, it’s a feeling,” he said. “And when you feel safe you feel safe. And when you don’t, you don’t.”

Cooney’s district includes Rochester and Greece. He says crime is a result of years of discrimination, lost generational wealth, an underperforming school system and life expectancy based on your zip code.

“But we can’t let these realities justify violence,” he said. And while I don’t have the perfect solution, I’m listening to my community’s plea to ‘just do something!’ And I believe this is a start.”

Sheriff Baxter’s statement continued “Governor Hochul and Senator Cooney have taken a significant step in the right direction by calling for the striking of the ‘Least Restrictive Means’ language in our laws. I thank them for taking action to increase public safety and look forward to the legislation being ratified in the NYS budget.”

Rochester City Council members Stanley Martin and Kim Smith released this statement:

“We have a serious problem with violence, especially gun violence. We need all elected leaders to be equally serious. For this Governor to come to Rochester – one of our nation’s poorest cities – and claim that bail reform allows people to shoot each other without consequences is just insulting. The reality is Governor Hochul’s budget proposal fails to make the investments and policy changes that communities across our state need to be safe. Instead of ending homelessness, ensuring access to quality community-based mental health treatment, creating an inclusive social safety net, funding evidence-backed overdose prevention programs, or providing material support for crime victims that doesn’t require them to be retraumatized by working with police, she offers only more jailing. We know who will suffer: Black, brown and low-income communities. The havoc in our city is a direct result of the violence of these systems.”

See full letter below: