Stefanik reintroduces bill to amend state bail laws

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans have advanced a bill they say would entice states to amend their bail laws, encouraging them to consider “dangerousness” of an offender in the bail-setting process.

Introduced on Friday with the support and co-sponsorship of every Republican representative for New York, the “Stop Enabling Repeat Violence and Endangering Our Communities Act,” or SERVE Our Communities Act, would authorize $10 million in grant funding from the Department of Justice to states that consider dangerousness in their bail process.

That money can be used to fund programs that mentor adult or juvenile offenders during or after incarceration, to run transitional services for those leaving imprisonment and offer training on offender and victims issues.

“To receive grant money, states with these laws must also take steps to hire and retain law enforcement or administer a public awareness campaign that combats anti-police sentiment and improves community-police relations,” reads a news release from Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, who authored the bill last session and led the charge introducing the bill to the Republican controlled House Friday.

The legislation targets New York, which in 2020 began enforcing one of the nations most progressive bail reform laws, strictly limiting who can be held in jail before trial and limiting how much money can be required to free someone from jail pretrial.

The reform has become a focal point for state politics, with even Democratic Gov. Kathy. Hochul admitting it needs to be revisited.

Stefanik has been a vocal critic of the reforms since the legislation was first introduced in Albany, and this marks the latest in her push to get New York to change the law.

“Far-left Albany’s reckless and dangerous bail reform policies have already put our communities at risk,” she said. “My legislation will incentivize New York state to implement policies that correct their massive oversight and hold repeat offenders accountable. I’m proud to stand united with local law enforcement and our community members to work to keep upstate New York and the north country and our state of New York, safe.”

Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-Canandaigua, who now represents western Jefferson County, Watertown and much of the Finger Lakes out to western New York in the 24th Congressional District, was another initial supporter of the bill.

“New York’s radical left cashless bail reform has been a disaster,” Tenney said in a statement. “The SERVE Act works to hold repeat offenders accountable and support our brave men and women who risk their lives to ensure our communities are safe. We must end the continuous cycle of ‘defund the police’ and ‘catch and release’ policies.”

This bill has local support from newly elected Jefferson County Sheriff Peter Barnett, a Republican.

“Bail reform has proven that career criminals and offenders who don’t care have made a mockery of the New York State Court System, placed stress on our local communities, and burdened local law enforcement agencies at a time when recruitment is so low. Judicial discretion is a must at the time of arraignment because each case should be based on its own merits,” Barnett said.


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