Press Release  | 03/20/2014

Supreme Court Committee Recommends Major Changes to New Jersey's Broken Bail System

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Report Released as Legislature Considers Bail Reform Legislation

Advocates Praise Report as Major Milestone in Reform Campaign

Trenton—This morning the Supreme Court released the report of the Joint Committee on Criminal Justice calling for significant changes to the current bail system in New Jersey and enactment of speedy trial legislation. The Committee made several overriding bail reform recommendations, including:

  • A shift to a system in which pretrial release decisions are based on risk, not resources
  • The use of an objective risk assessment on all defendants housed in jail pretrial
  • Establishment of nonmonetary conditions of release that correspond to a defendant’s risk level
  • Appropriate supervision by pretrial services officers of defendants who are released
  • Development of a mechanism for effective enforcement of noncompliance with release conditions
  • A constitutional amendment allowing for preventative detention of dangerous defendants
  • Adequate funding to properly implement all improvements

The report is a major step forward to remedying the problems outlined in a state jail population analysis released last year, which found that nearly forty percent of individuals incarcerated in county jails are there solely because they cannot afford their often nominal bail amounts.

Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance, praised the Joint Committee’s recommendations for comprehensive reform.  “New Jersey’s current bail system is irreparably broken and needs the systemic changes that the committee unanimously recommends,” says Scotti.  “Piecemeal reform will not work.  I believe this report marks a critical turning point in the campaign to remake New Jersey’s broken bail system and create a system that provides true justice and protects public safety.”

The recommendations in the report echo the changes to the bail system proposed by Assembly Bill 1910 / Senate Bill 946, currently pending before the Judiciary Committee in each House. This bill moves New Jersey away from a resource-based system to one reliant on risk by prioritizing nonmonetary conditions of release, requiring all defendants to undergo a risk assessment before their initial bail hearing, establishing pretrial services agencies to supervise and monitor those release, and permitting the absolute detention of truly dangerous individuals.

The Reverend Errol Cooper, Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, also commended the report’s call to move New Jersey towards a risk-based bail system.  “Current bail policies are unfair and ineffective because they are a waste of taxpayer dollars, keep New Jersey jails stocked with nonviolent offenders, and weaken families and communities. Reform will restore fundamental fairness back into our criminal justice system.”

Reverend Cooper was among a large group of faith leaders who attended a press conference at the state house last week and testified before the Assembly Judiciary Committee supporting bail reform legislation.

Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243

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