Brendan Keany

Bills Legend Leading the Charge on Cash Bail Reform

Thurman Thomas spoke to the Erie County Legislature yesterday

December 14, 2018 - 12:55 am

BUFFALO (WBEN) - It's been a busy couple months for Thurman Thomas, who had his number 34 retired by the Bills in October, and is now trying his hand in being an advocate for cash-bail reform for non-violent offenders in the prison system.

Thomas spoke on the floor at the Erie County Legislature Public Safety Committee meeting yesterday.

"The poor are often left behind bars because they cannot afford to pay their bail bonds in order to be released," he said. "Those who have to wait in jail because they cannot afford bail often end up losing their jobs, family falling behind on their bills, and they even have their property repossessed, making them face even more financial hardship than they had before they could afford their bail. This has even led to some people who are innocent to accept bad plea bargains just so they can be released from jail and get back on with their everyday lives."

The basic idea is that the current cash-bail system is unfair, particularly to those in less fortunate financial situations. However, there's nothing really that Erie County can do from a legislative standpoint, legislator April Baskin explained the purpose of the discussion.

"The bail reform resolution calls on the Erie County Legislature to to be in support of a state bill that has been introduced in both houses  - the senate and the assembly - and the governor has his own version of what it would like like," said Baskin. "A reform of the criminal justice system in terms of eliminating cash bail for non-violent misdemeanor offenders."

So, any legislation on this would have to come from the state, and Thomas was asked if he's willing to make the trip to Albany.

"Yeah, I probably will," said Thomas. "This is like the first step for me coming out and speaking in front of the legislature, so hopefully I'll continue to do that."

The legislature will vote on supporting the legislation next week.

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