© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Erie County judges already implementing cash bail reforms to take effect statewide Jan. 1

Mike Desmond

It is no secret major changes in New York's criminal laws are starting to take effect. More take effect Jan. 1.  Judges at an anti-violence forum Wednesday evening said they are reviewing their cases for those who will be released from prison.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Attorney Mark Worrell of the Assigned Counsel Program, a project of the Erie County Bar Association.

Some judges are already putting the laws into effect to ease the transition starting with the new year. Erie County Judge Susan Maxwell Barnes told the panel discussion her staff is already looking at her pending cases to see who will have to be released because cash bail is mostly being ended Jan. 1.

During the meeting, anti-violence worker Spencer Cowart told of his time behind bars and how he worked to avoid going back.

"Every other week I'm going back and forth and guess what? I've got no violations, not one. Not one late curfew, nothing," Cowart said. "One of my goals was to do right."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
It was a full crowd at the Merriweather Library Wednesday.

Judge Kevin Carter, supervising judge for family courts across the eight counties of Western New York, told the meeting of the problem of young black men walking the streets with weapons, being arrested and facing time behind bars, potentially much time. Carter said he had no idea how bad things were until he took over the court's youth part.

"Since Oct. 1, 2018, 200 children between 13 and 18 years old. Two-hundred. And in 150-60 of those cases, weapon possession," he said.

The statistic did not appear to surprise many in the audience, an audience with members of anti-violence groups like SNUG and the Stop the Violence Coalition. A show of hands at the meeting indicated many in the audience have been involved with the justice system, past or present, from jail time to probation.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
Related Content