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Governor on repeat arrestees: “There will be consequences”

The sun sets behind Holman Prison in Atmore, Ala., on Thursday as the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution of Matthew Reeves, convicted of killing a man during a robbery in 1996.
The sun sets behind Holman Prison in Atmore, Ala., on Thursday, Jan., 27, 2022, as the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether to allow the execution of death row inmate Matthew Reeves, convicted of killing a man during a robbery in 1996. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

Gov. Kathy Hochul, as a part of a conceptual budget deal, announced several changes to bail reform, discovery reform, and raise the age on Thursday.

While Hochul maintains that her focus is on violence interruption and investment in communities, she said safety is equally important.

“Someone who has been accused of a serious crime, or commits a crime over and over and over, especially the retail theft that is just so hard for our hard-hit businesses … the stories are legendary, and actually rather shocking,” Hochul said.

“There will be consequences for people in those situations.”

Among the bail changes announced were:

— Allowing judges to consider a history of gun use, violated orders of protection, and the harm caused to an alleged victim, when setting bail

— The addition of several offenses to the list of those eligible for bail, including: all hate crimes, gun sales to minors, altered/defaced weapons, gun possession on school grounds, repeat offenses for property theft

— Other offenses added to that list include repeat arrests for: property theft (with exceptions for crimes of poverty), repeat offenses where a person is harmed

— Closure of the “Desk Appearance Loophole”

The tentative budget deal also includes changes to the penal law. Among those changes is a reduction of the number of guns required to meet the threshold of ‘trafficking,’ from 10 guns to three.

When it comes to discovery reform, Hochul said cases will no longer be automatically dismissed if the prosecutor is acting in good faith but fails to meet the deadline for turning over evidence after arraignment.

Hochul also announced changes to the state’s “Raise the Age” law, which allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to be prosecuted as minors for most crimes, instead of adults.

“You could have a case where someone is 16 or 17, and they are charged with an offense, but they don’t end up in court until they’re over 18,” Hochul said. “That sort of limbo here, and the cases were dismissed.”

Changes to Raise the Age, Discovery Reform, and Bail reform were opposed by progressive members of the Legislature, who argued changes would disproportionately impact minorities.

When asked about that issue directly, Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, who led negotiations on bail reform with the Legislature, said it’s a multi-tiered approach that involves community engagement.

“We’d like to see more of that, and that’s what we’re looking to do. That’s why the governor has introduced an office of Gun Violence Prevention that is going to be focused specifically on this effort,” Benjamin said.

“$224 million that is going towards investing in root causes, working with communities.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the issue said public safety changes were the biggest hurdle to clear in budget negotiations.