Officials Say New Jersey Bail Reform Going Smoothly
For the last five months, if you were arrested and charged in the state of New Jersey, it’s likely a cash bail wasn’t set. That’s because the state has nearly eliminated cash bail.
Officials told New Jersey 101.5 that the bail reform has been successful so far, but even though it’s been a smooth process within the last five months, there are some issues that could be changed.
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“Now some of those imperfections may be addressed, starting with a possible expansion of the list of demerits in the checklist used to assess whether to recommend defendants be released without having to post bail or be detained until trial without the possibility of bail,” an article on the 101.5 website reads.
While bail does still exist in New Jersey, it’s only an option in a handful of cases following the bail reform that took effect on Jan. 1.
“About 1,100 people have been detained without bail, while the jail population has been reduced – as was the intention, to limit the number of people locked up while awaiting trial because they weren’t able to afford even nominal amounts of bail,” the article reads.
Officials have asked the courts to expand the list of offenses that weigh against releasing a defendant before his or her trial.
“Prosecutors are asking that the assessment put more weight on charges for gun possession and eluding police in a car, as well as repeat offenses allegedly committed while a person is free on pretrial release, probation or parole,” the article reads.
Officials said they feel that someone who is out on probation or parole who is still breaking the law should be treated differently and with stricter laws that will penalize their actions.
The main issue in regards to bail reform that officials are concerned about is money.
“Criminal-justice reforms prompted the state judiciary to establish a new Pretrial Services program, largely for assessing defendants for detention or release. Court fees were hiked to pay for it – but they already aren’t covering the cost, in part because court filings are down,” the article reads.
Bail reform is expected to cost the New Jersey courts nearly $37 million this year, but only $22 million from increased court fees are dedicated to the program.
“For now, the program can lean on a surplus built as the program was in development. By late 2018 or early 2019, the structural deficit will become an actual deficit,” the article reads.
The Senate budget will review potential changes at a hearing on Thursday.