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Lisa Okeefe Speaks out: Ask yourself Why are our elected State legislators prioritizing the rights of the accused over ensuring the safety of our communities?

OKEEFE SPEAKS OUT Focus: Soft on Crime Legislation

Press release:



Focus: Soft on Crime Legislation


Press Release

For Immediate Release

The assault on police officers in New York City by illegal immigrants a few days ago is one more reminder that soft-on-crime legislation such as the ticket and release laws do not work – they do not make us safer – in fact, they put us into a dangerous environment where the rights of law-abiding citizens are greatly diminished in favor of tipping the scales toward those accused of even the most heinous of crimes.

Another reminderA woman was brutally beaten by her boyfriend in Buffalo. He was ticketed and released and within a few hours, he murdered her in front of her children.

Another reminderIssac Rodriquez of Queens was ticketed and released for his alleged crime and before his court date he was allowed total freedom to victimize other innocent people through gang activity where he and others beat, stabbed, and robbed a man and committed another 55 crimes before his court date for this first offense.

An example – with the Right to Know Laws, which are now NYS Criminal Procedure Law 2453, an accused robber or rapist or someone who has committed another type of heinous act is not only able to be ticketed and released but within 35 days of being ticketed and released he is given the names and the addresses of the witnesses.

How safe does that make the witness feel? And remember this is different than the Constitution’s right to face the witness where you see the witness in court and can cross-examine the witness.

This is when the accused is free and walking around and may not have his or her court date for months. And now with this law, the accused may be granted the right to come into your home again after being arrested so he or she can better build their defense. This makes you the victim twice.

How many reminders do we need before our elected officials admit this law was a mistake from the beginning and no matter how many times it is revised, which is now 4, it is never going to work?

Soft-on-crime legislation recklessly endangers the lives of others by letting accused individuals off the hook without immediate consequences or accountability – allowing them to roam freely after merely receiving a ticket and without facing the necessary scrutiny and supervision that is needed. This lenient approach undermines deterrence and poses a direct threat to our communities. 

And our State legislators know this – they know this – which is why they have reformed this legislation 4 times in the past couple of years. They have seen Walgreens, Aldis, and Tops in one Upstate city lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in added-up petty larceny offenses from the same repeat offenders because this law only allows for an appearance ticket and release.  They have seen this ticket and released law applying for terroristic threats, unlawful imprisonment, sexual abuse, and second-degree manslaughter.  This forces prosecutors to have to work around the law such as was the case with the Cornell student who is accused of threatening to rape and slit the throat of Jewish students at the University. In that case, they were able to hold him behind bars in Broome County by charging him with a federal count of making threatening statements.

And this soft-on-crime legislation seems to have no end as more bills have been presented for the 23- 24 term. One such bill, Assembly Bill 00854 takes away the thought of life imprisonment or death for those who have committed the worst of crimes. This bill says that no one, not even someone who has committed first-degree murder or an act of terrorism or even the criminal use of a chemical weapon or biological weapon in the first degree can ever be sentenced to more than 25 years before they are eligible for parole.

Now ask yourself – Why are our elected State legislators prioritizing the rights of the accused over ensuring the safety of our communities?

We have some of the finest men and women in law enforcement but their activities are restricted by ineffective legislation such as no bail reform. Smart legislation needs to be crafted that is founded on research, statistics, and proven methodology that aligns with our law enforcement and our community. And we need to look at not only legislation but also ways and means to prevent the crime from happening in the first place for several reasons including the overcrowding in our jails and prisons and the exorbitant cost of housing prisoners. In 2019, for example, a typical Upstate county spent more than $115,000 per year, to incarcerate one adult person in a state prison and $214,620 per year for a juvenile This is money paid for by you and me the taxpayers.

State legislators who co-sponsored this bill, believe this catch-and-release program will cut the cost and the overcrowding problem in the jails and prisons. They think it’s a good idea to authorize the early release of prisoners before they have paid their debt to society and before they can handle the challenges of being on the outside. This is a dangerous policy to have for the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that seventy percent of prisoners released in a given year were arrested again within five years. (,and%20three-quarters%20%2876.6%25%29%20were%20arrested%20within%205%20years.)


But some elected officials have become masters of double talk – distorting the truth to fit their narrative of the day. One day they say the soft-on-crime law is necessary because of overcrowding in the prisons which dictates the need for this risky soft-on-crime law. And then the next day they say the prisons are not crowded. The Governor is thinking about closing 5 more prisons, most of which are Upstate, by 2025 – and with just 90-day notice. 90-day notice – for any of you who have had to move out of your apartment or into a new home you know it takes months of planning and yet there is still chaos. Now imagine with only 90 days’ notice a prison would need to let go of its staff and relocate thousands of prisoners. Can you imagine the chaos this would cause? Can you imagine how unsafe this would be? Can you imagine the impact on a community with the sudden drop in employment? And she wants to do this when incarcerations and attacks on prison guards is up.

I stand with the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association when they say this is taking a wrong turn again. Prisoners are overcrowded and overcrowding is not only dangerous to prisoners and correctional officers alike but it also provides for a less humane situation. If we want to rehabilitate prisoners we need to instill in them the values of a good citizen and that means providing them in a safe environment with adequate supervision and rules. 

And, overcrowding and the high costs are not sustainable nor is it an effective use of money. So we have to think proactively – how to stop crime before it happens. Cities with huge crime rates have found that when their economy improves and people have jobs and can afford the necessities of food and shelter for their families the crime level plummeted. So step number one is we have to improve our economy – we have to move away from being the second highest poverty county in the state to being the Valley of Opportunity again. Step two is we have to think beyond ourselves. If effective legislation is in place, you and I will not commit a crime because we don’t want to go to jail. But people with substance abuse or mental health issues may not think the same way we do. They may not be able to understand or appreciate the punishment for a crime they commit. In Broome County, we have a shortage of mental health professionals and substance abuse resources for our needs. So we need to correct these factors if we are going to see any sustained lowering of crime rates and reduce crime at its root. The lowering of criminals in jails and prisons will save our State money – money that will be used for mental health and substance abuse resources and for improving our economy.