TRENTON — In response to the Administrative Office of the Court’s release of statistics about the first month of bail reform implementation, advocates who supported bail reform legislation in 2014 (and who will sit on the legislatively created Pretrial Services Program Review Commission), applaud the successful implementation of the program.
“We commend the courts’ and other stakeholders’ hard work and commitment to effectively implement this new system,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “There have been few glitches in the first month and while opponents, who have a financial stake in the old, broken system, want to cherry pick a few cases as evidence of problems, the reality is that the new system provides more public safety and more justice. With bail reform, prosecutors have new tools to protect the public. Just as important, low risk individuals who in the past would have languished in jail for months are able to go back to their families and jobs while awaiting trial.”
In the new system, judges utilize an evidence-based risk assessment tool to help them make decisions about release. They are able to detain high risk individuals who pose a risk to public safety, and are able to release lower risk individuals with conditions and supervision. The use of money bail is deprioritized under the reform.
“Since January 1, 2017, there have been no monetary bails issued in the state of New Jersey,” said Alex Shalom, Senior Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. “That is a huge win. Money bail is inherently discriminatory and by eliminating the practice of money bail, New Jersey is leading the nation in creating a fairer criminal justice system. We must however remain vigilant in monitoring the use of preventative detention since overuse of pretrial incarceration can impede the success of the reform.”
Richard Smith, President of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP is encouraged by the reform. “Bail reform is a racial justice victory for New Jersey,” he says. “At every point of the criminal justice system, people of color fare worse than their white counterparts, and the pretrial stage is no exception. Bail reform is helping to address these disparities.”
Carlos Hendricks of the Latino Action Network agrees, “We know that the use of monetary bail has a disproportionate impact on low income communities, which are most often communities of color. Reforming the bail system in New Jersey will have a direct impact on those communities most harmed by New Jersey’s historical use of monetary bail. We stand united in our position to eliminate the disproportionality of persons of color and the poor unnecessarily incarcerated and affected by the current system of bail.”
The Drug Policy Alliance, the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP, the Latino Action Network, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice are all members of the Pretrial Services Program Review Commission established by the bail reform law.