Castigating the bail process in New York as unfair to the poor and susceptible to allowing dangerous suspects to be set free, the state's top judge called on Tuesday for an overhaul of the bail system that would bring the state closer in line with the rest of the country, says the New York Times. In his annual State of the Judiciary speech in Albany, the chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, said New York was one of only four states that did not allow judges to consider public safety when making a bail determination. The main criteria used by judges is the risk of the defendant's not returning to court for trial.
“As a result, defendants may be put back on the street with insufficient regard to public safety, with possibly catastrophic consequences,” he said. “Few, if any, would seriously argue that judges should not consider the safety and well-being of people on our streets or in our homes when making bail decisions. This makes no sense and certainly does not serve the best interests of our communities and our citizens.” Lippman said the bail system was stacked against those accused of minor crimes, keeping them in jail at great personal hardship and weakening their resolve in plea negotiations. The judge called that outcome “unfair” and said it “strips our justice system of its credibility.”