SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Chief Administrative Judge of the Fifth Judicial District Jim Murphy is in charge of Central New York courts, and the 300 judges in six counties who preside over them. It's his job to help them navigate the state's new bail reform law that takes effect on January 1, 2020.
At least 250 inmates in CNY currently held on bail throughout the region will go before a judge and get released on or before January 1, which is a major change in the judge's process.
"There are what some people would consider to be pretty significant crimes that they will not be able to set bail on, whether they want to or not, and that's a big change for the judges," said Murphy.
Judge Murphy says he's been meeting with district attorneys, police chiefs and sheriffs throughout his district to work out the logistics of releasing that many inmates over a short period of time.
"Trying to figure out who these people are. Who's there that will not be there or should not be there on January 2nd," explained Murphy, "we don't micromanage the courts. That's up to a judge to look at their cases and determine what they want to do."
The bail reform law eliminates bail for more than 400 crimes considered to be "non-violent. It includes manslaughter in the second-degree, and burglary in the second and third-degree.
While Judge Murphy says judges take an oath to uphold the law, he understands the growing concern for public safety.
"It's not what you or I would necessarily think. That's part of the issue. I think most of the public would agree that some of the crimes like a burglary in second is non-violent, cause you're entering someone's home. The people who define it could probably defend it by saying you never touched anybody."
As the first of the year gets closer, Judge Murphy says a major concern is many of the inmates are battling mental health and addiction issues.
"Where are they going? That's something that we don't really have a good solution for. We're trying to work very closely with social services for each of the counties."
Supporters of New York's bail reform, including the Central New York chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, say it will "fulfill a constitutional requirement" to treat people fairly.