The New Solutions Campaign: Bail Reform
We are working in New Jersey to transform the state pretrial justice process into a system that meets general requirements of fundamental fairness, relies on evidence-based practices designed to promote rehabilitation and reduce recidivism and is fiscally responsible.
In particular, bail reform is sorely needed in New Jersey. At the moment, arrestees are typically assigned a money bail amount that is often pre-determined using a state-wide bail schedule. Individuals who are unable to pay these often nominal sums simply remain incarcerated for months pending trial, at enormous cost to the state. There is no process in place to make individualized determinations of the actual risk these people pose to the community, whether they are likely to appear for future court dates absent incarceration, and whether they are at risk of re-offending if granted release.
We are currently advocating for Senate Bill 946 / Assembly Bill 1910. This legislation will vastly improve New Jersey’s bail system by (1) declaring non-monetary pretrial release the default option for the majority of defendants; (2) establishing a pretrial services agency in each county to supervise low-risk individuals who are released pending trial; (3) mandating the use of a validated risk assessment tool when evaluating individuals for release; and (4) permitting the absolute detention of truly dangerous individuals.
In April 2013, an organization called Luminosity, in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance, released a report finding that the vast majority of people incarcerated in New Jersey county jails are awaiting trial—in other words, they have not been found guilty or convicted of a crime—and remain in jail for an average of ten months, thanks to administrative backlogs and our generally overburdened court system. Many of these people could and should be safely released pending trial but their inability to afford bail makes this impossible.