New Jersey Bail Reform Hits Hurdles
When people talk about bail reform success, many point to New Jersey as a glowing example of how it should work. Unfortunately, all that glitters is not gold. The Bail Reform and Speedy Trial Act recently has officially been on the books for over a year. To its credit, the Act has helped to reduce jail population by over 20%. Pretrial defendants are released on their own recognizance in most cases.
On the other hand, the Act has significantly raised costs for the county prosecutor’s offices. They are now having to staff additional prosecutors and operate a pretrial services department 24 hours a day. More importantly, the reform has caused grave concerns for public safety. Many fear that the reform has increased the likelihood that dangerous criminals would be released to the street. The city of Newark experienced this first hand when a man who was released without bail under the new law killed his ex-girlfriend. He was released two times on domestic violence charges against the same victim.
Others have concerns over whether any revenue is being generated by the bill. More money was going out than was coming in. Funding simply isn’t there for the bill. Part of the expense is in operating county offices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and in the increase in staff required to operate these services. With no end in sight, many fear that the program faces collapse in a short time.