Sheriff on Long Island criticizes bail reform

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. putting a face to inmates who have criminal records and released multiple times, most recently under the new bail reform law.

Among them Lonnie Pernell arrested for criminal contempt five times during the months of November and December, Dwayne Ross arrested for strangulation and then for criminal contempt, Fidel Portillo arrested for rape and sexual conduct with a child. Portillo was released December 30 after posting $40,000, just ten percent of his court-ordered $400,000 bond.

"We have a rape and a strangulation and those two individuals have been returned back because of this legislation and that is a problem," said the sheriff.

Under this legislation, judges are no longer allowed to set bail for most misdemeanors and select nonviolent felonies.

However, Sheriff Toulon said the law fails to protect victims of some questionable crimes and puts the community at risk.

"When you think about a woman that has domestic violence is now could be fearful of actually reporting the crime because her name, any witnesses to the crime, their names, addresses, phone number are now given to the defendant through this legislation," he said.

In Suffolk County, 301 inmates who otherwise would have been held on bail or bond were released by the courts.


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Sheriff Toulon sees the jail not as a place of punishment but rather an opportunity for rehabilitation, which is something these defendants are no longer able to benefit from under the law.

"I question why there wasn't a group of law enforcement people that were strongly considered in this process when the legislation was being crafted," he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who indicated changes to the law were needed earlier in the week, failed to specifically mention bail reform in his State of the State address on Wednesday. Instead, his office referred us to comments made by a top aide who said, in part, that bail reform is wholly legitimate, public safety comes first, and there will be a conversation later this year.

Right now, Suffolk County's correctional facilities have just over 750 inmates, nearly half the number compared to this time last year.