Victims rights advocate calls for repeal of bail reform: "We are the statistics"

Victims rights advocate calls for repeal of bail reform: “We are the statistics”

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NEW YORK — A key criticism about bail reform is that it focuses on those who have been arrested, not the victims of the crime. 

Jennifer Harrison is on a mission to change that. That’s why she established Victims Rights, New York, a political action committee. 

She tells CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas why changing the law is not enough, all while still having compassion for people like Kalief Browder. 

“Kalief Browder shouldn’t have been sitting in Rikers for three years awaiting trial. So what really is going on and why are we not addressing those issues?” Harrison asked. 

“We all want the system to be more fair and just for everybody at the end of the day, but I don’t think that the resolution to that or solution is to issue blanket release mandates, which is basically what bail reform was,” she continued.

“Why aren’t things being done to streamline the process of trials and get people out of Rikers?” she asked. 

“We just really need to repeal it and replace it with a properly well written piece of legislation that includes input from everybody that is affected by this,” Harrison said.

“New legislation should definitely have some kind of mental health evaluation or avenue to remand emotionally disturbed people into custody, so that they can get the services that they provide. If there’s going to be any diversion in between arraignment and court date for substance abuse issues, that can’t be voluntary, because we’re seeing a lot of attacks happen because of that,” she continued. “Homeless people, we need to make sure that if a homeless person is being arrested, that they’re getting the services that they provide… Released supervision is basically just a term at this point. It’s kind of a joke.”

“The recidivism rates aren’t higher with bail reform than pre-bail reform. But it doesn’t matter if you’re a victim of the crime. So tell me how do we center victims here?” Cline-Thomas asked. 

“You really can’t measure in statistics, because we are the statistics. We are the human element behind those statistics,” Harrison replied. “What is the magic number that we need, and why is Albany playing Russian roulette with people’s lives?”

“That person, that murder victim is not coming back. The rape victim is never going to forget that she was raped. The arsonists that are released and burn down people’s houses, those lives will be destroyed forever. So when is enough, enough?” she concluded. 

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