BUFFALO, N.Y. — Crime and bail reform are central topics in so many elections around the state this season, and the state attorney general’s election is no exception.
In an exclusive interview with WGRZ on Tuesday, incumbent Letitia James shared her stance on bail reform, which slightly differed from what she’s shared in the past.
“We need to address a wide range of issues, including but not limited to looking at bail reform,” James said.
James has spent the bulk of her term disagreeing that cashless bail must be eliminated in order to decrease crime rates in the state, but now says the state's bail reform needs to be looked at.
“I understand the concern that individuals have,” she told WGRZ. “I understand the fear that they have, but we've got to work together and not politicize this very important issue.”
But when it comes to voters this year, it’s one of the top things on their minds, as Quinnipiac University’s most recent poll ranks crime as the No. 1 most urgent issue among voters, which her opponent Michael Henry has made a central argument in his campaign, targeting James in the process.
“When it was pitched to the public, it was to make sure that nonviolent first time offenders are not sitting in jail because they're poor, and I think everyone agrees with that,” Henry told Spectrum News on Monday. “But we are the only state of the 50 that does not have a dangerousness standard when a judge is taking into account bail.”
It’s an issue that’s recently hit Buffalo especially close to home, as earlier this month Cheektowaga resident Adam Bennefield allegedly murdered his estranged wife while on cashless bail.
While James acknowledges the need to address bail reform in the state, she says it can’t be talked about without considering other issues like pretrial services or resources that could help prevent crime in the first place.
“We cannot incarcerate our way out of public safety,” James said. “We've got to prevent it.”
According to the latest Siena Poll released Tuesday, James currently has an 11-point lead over Henry, which is significantly smaller than her 27-point margin of victory back in 2018.