Image from CBS6, Albany
Police officers in Troy, New York are complaining that the state’s new bail reform law is empowering criminals, and they’re pointing to the recent arrests of a local man named Scott Nolan as an example of the law putting criminals back on the streets to re-offend when they should be behind bars.
The new laws are allowing suspects like Nolan to be released with an appearance ticket instead of being taken into custody.
The Troy Police Union believes this is putting an unnecessary burden on their officers by having to repeatedly catch this man. They also say the new laws diminish the power of arrest.
The states new bail laws tangled up Troy Police in a game loop of catch and release. They arrested Scott Nolan three times in seven hours yesterday.
Around 9am they arrested him and charged him for shoplifting. He was released with an appearance ticket.
Hours later, they say he assaulted a man just before 2:30pm. He was arrested and released again.
Then just before 4:30pm they say he hit another person with a brick. Police charged him with second degree attempted assault and third degree criminal possession of a weapon, which kept him in custody.
I can understand a quick release on a shoplifting charge, but the fact that Nolan was arrested twice in two hours for assault is ridiculous. It’s also worth noting that what eventually allowed police to keep Nolan behind bars was the arrest for possessing a brick, not actually physically assaulting someone.
Nolan wasn’t just a prolific offender one day this week. According to Nicholas Laviano, who’s the head of the Troy police officers union, he’s well known to law enforcement in the area.
Back in January police charged him with criminal mischief and released him. They say they caught him committing the same crime hours later.
Laviano says his criminal history is 50 pages long, and that has to be printed out every time he’s arrested. He says that process uses uses up time and taxpayer money.
“It’s a morale killer,” Laviano says. “They know that they’re not out there doing the real police work that they want to be doing.”
Perhaps this issue isn’t just with the state’s new bail reform law, given the fact that Nolan’s rap sheet runs to 50 pages. Why, given his lengthy criminal history, does it appear that Nolan has never been sentenced to serious prison time for any of his crimes?
The idea behind ending cash bail for misdemeanors and some felonies in New York is that forcing defendants to pay high cash bonds in order to be released from jail before their trial disproportionately impacts the poor, and leads to mass incarceration for non-violent offenses. Supporters say that ending cash bail can be done without negative consequences, like an increase in the those who fail to show up for their court date, or an increase in violent crime.
Bail is not supposed to be a form of punishment. After all, it’s applied before a defendant is even found guilty or acquitted of a crime. It’s supposed to be used to keep those behind bars who a judge believes poses a danger to the community or is a flight risk. Typically, the more serious the crime, the higher the amount of bail.
The problem is that for many people, even raising a few thousand dollars to bail a family member out of jail is beyond their means. The bail reform movement in New York really caught fire when the case of Kalief Browder became national news. Browder was 16-years old when he was arrested on robbery charges, accused of stealing another teen’s backpack in Brooklyn. Bail was set at $3,000, but his family didn’t have the money, so Browder remained behind bars for more than three years (including 400 days in solitary confinement) before prosecutors ultimately dropped the charge. Three years after his release, Browder committed suicide.
Browder’s ordeal was an injustice that rightfully angered many New Yorkers. However, the failures of the criminal justice system that allow someone like Scott Nolan to wrack up a rap sheet that runs to 50 pages also angers people, and rightfully so. The bail reform law could easily be modified to allow judges to allow bail for individuals that have been arrested a certain number of times within a certain time period, as well as something like a 2-convictions rule that would allow for bail to be considered for those who have multiple and separate felony convictions on their record. That would help cut down on violent, career criminals who may be benefitting from the new law.
But New York needs to address the failures in the criminal justice system that allow those career criminals to persist in their crimes in the first place. Instead of doing anything like that, however, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Democrat lawmakers have an ambitious legislative agenda that targets the state’s legal gun owners instead of violent criminals and the state’s broken criminal justice system.