Bronx DA Darcel Clark says her office is ready for bail, judicial reforms

BRONX, New York City (WABC) -- When Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark begins her second term in January, she will be in the midst of one of the most sweeping judicial reforms in her career. And even with reservations, she says the borough is ready.

"I think that it was necessary," she said. "You know, it is a matter of degree whether you like it or you don't. We will have to wait and see, but my office is going to be ready."

Under new laws passed by the state legislature, more than 400 crimes would require mandatory release of an individual charged with any of them, with no bail.

"My approach is if this is a crime we are not seeking a jail sentence on, then there is no need to ask for bail," Clark said. "No one should be sitting in jail waiting for their case."

But those thoughts change when it comes to repeat offenders.

"I don't think it's fair that people who continue to commit crimes will just be let out each and ever time," she said.

She says 10 inmates from the Bronx currently being held on Rikers Island are expected to be released, and she is putting in place a new policy for her office's team of assistant district attorneys to follow.

"I will be teaching my assistants to ask for what is appropriate for that particular case," she said. "And then it's up to the judge to decide what to do."

While other district attorneys and law enforcement officials have raised concerns, Clark -- a former prosecutor and former judge -- is taking what she calls a positive approach.

"Once I am able to divert them out, I can use those resources to deal with the violence that I have in this county," she said. "And I have a lot."

A recent string of shootings left 10 people wounded in a nine hour period, including five in one shooting just before Thanksgiving.

"Too many guns," Clark said. "My policy is going to be two years in jail, two years post release supervision. Because there should be no reason why you have a gun if you are not a law enforcement officer."

Other judicial reforms are expected to put new demands on the DA's office, but Clark remains optimistic.

"I suspect that as time goes on, there is going to be some tweaks to the reform laws," she said.

And to meet the challenges, she will begin a series of community meetings to ensure residents are informed and not fearful.

"I want to be fair to people accused of crimes, but it's all about public safety and safer communities," she said.

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