Report Shows Bail Reform’s Overwhelming Success: Dramatically Reduced Jail Population, No Meaningful Increase in Failures to Appear in Court by Defendants or Increase in New Offenses Committed by Released Defendants, and Declining Crime Rates
Statement from Roseanne Scotti of the Drug Policy Alliance
Trenton, NJ – Today, the New Jersey Judiciary released its second Annual Report to the Legislature and Governor on the state’s historic bail reform law. This year’s report had been eagerly awaited as it is the first report to include statistics on failures to appear by defendants, new offenses committed by defendants on pretrial release and demographic statistics on defendants.
Six years ago, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released a report that highlighted the failure of the money bail system in New Jersey. Along with that report, DPA led a campaign to reform New Jersey’s broken bail system. That DPA report and campaign led to legislation that overhauled the bail system in New Jersey. The Judiciary’s new report highlights the enormous success of bail reform in New Jersey after two years of implementation.
Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, issued the following statement after the report’s release:
“This report shows that New Jersey’s historic bail reform law has been a resounding success. We have seen a 44 percent decrease in the pretrial jail population and, at the same time, no meaningful increases in failures to appear in court or new offenses committed by people who are released pretrial. Thousands of individuals, mostly people of color, have been able to remain free pending trial. They have been able to stay with their families and communities. They have been able to keep their jobs and their housing. The end of money bail in New Jersey has increased both social justice and public safety in our state.”
Key findings of the report include:
- New Jersey’s pretrial jail population has declined 43.9 percent since December 31, 2015.
- Viewed by gender, the report shows 5,600 fewer men and 600 fewer women incarcerated pretrial in 2018, as compared to 2012.
- Viewed by race and ethnicity, approximately 3,000 fewer black individuals, more than 1,500 fewer white individuals, and 1,300 fewer Hispanic individuals were incarcerated under bail reform.
- In 2018, only 102 defendants had money bail set for them, out of a total defendant population of 44,383.
- There was no significant increase in the rate at which defendants appeared in court under bail reform, with an average appearance rate of 92.7 percent in 2014 and 89.4 percent in 2017. Concerns about a possible increase in crime and failures to appear did not materialize. In fact, crime rates, both violent and nonviolent, continue to drop in New Jersey.
- There was no significant increase in new offenses committed by defendants on pretrial release under bail reform. In 2014, 12.7 percent of defendants were charged with a new indictable crime while on pretrial release, a number that remained consistently low, 13.7 percent, in 2017. The report states that, “Because of certain challenges in compiling data from 2014, small changes in outcome measures should be interpreted with caution and likely do not represent meaningful differences.”
- The number of summons issued to defendants (in lieu of custodial arrests) increased from
- 69,469 in 2014 to 98,473 in 2017. This means that a greater number of low risk defendants never saw the inside of a jail cell at all pending trial and were released immediately after arrest.
- The report found that 81.9 percent of defendants were released within 24 hours of arrest and 99.6 percent were released within 48 hours of arrest.