Criminal justice reform has long been a hot button issue at both the federal and state levels. There is a major over-incarceration problem in the United States, in part because of three strikes laws and strict mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Defendants charged with federal crimes could end up sentenced to lengthy prison sentences, even for more minor involvement with criminal activity. This is why it is so important to consult with a New York City federal criminal defense attorney whenever you are facing charges.
The future of federal efforts to reform the criminal justice system are uncertain, especially after the surprise election of President Trump. Since the issues with the justice system also exist on the state level, it is important to monitor for signs of progress in New York, as well as on the federal level.
Just recently, there was some optimistic news when Time Warner Cable reported that democrats in the assembly put forth a package of reform bills.
Criminal Justice Reform Proposals in New York
The reform bills proposed by assembly democrats in New York would make some important changes for defendants accused of wrongdoing. Some of the proposed reforms include:
- Making the grand jury process more transparent: A grand jury convenes in order to determine, based on evidence that a prosecutor presents, whether someone should be indicted.
- Raising the minimum age necessary for someone to be held criminally responsible: The minimum age for criminal responsibility would change from 16 to 18. New York is one of only two states that automatically treats a 16-year-old as an adult when prosecuting him or her for an offense. Children under the minimum age will go to family court instead of criminal court if they are accused of wrongdoing, so the proposed bills also suggest adding more family court judges.
- Making it easier for a defendant to make bail after being accused of a crime: The bail system favors the wealthy, and can result in defendants facing lengthy periods of incarceration even before being convicted if they are not able to make bail.
It remains unclear whether some or all of the proposed reforms will happen to reshape the criminal justice system in NY. Many republicans responded that reform efforts are often focused on how to improve the system for the accused while ignoring the plight of victims who are harmed by crimes.
Democrats in favor of the reforms, however, argue that the goal of reform is to make the criminal justice system better for everyone, including for taxpayers who must bear the substantial financial burden of incarcerating people who may not actually need to be incarcerated for as long as they have been sentenced or who may be better served though rehabilitation and support rather than imprisonment.
Hopefully, reform will happen on the state level and progress will be made on improving fairness in the justice system on the federal level as well. A criminal defense attorney at The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC can provide assistance if you are charged so you can protect your rights even within the troubled system that exists today.