Growing Support for Major Policy Changes to Bail Bond System in New Jersey

According to the New Jersey Times newspaper, it is a rare time to be politically active in New Jersey, especially if you are in support of improving the bail bond system in the state. New changes to the bail bond system in New Jersey have been suggested by major political parties, including the Republicans and Democrats. The latest news suggests that reform is supported by both parties, alongside some of the advocates who are concerned about civil liberties in the United States. In specific, the changes would apply to how bail is set for individuals who have been charged with a crime. In addition, changes would be implemented to ensure the state "makes good" on its guarantee to provide defendants with a speedy trial.

What is Currently Happening in New Jersey?

Today, poor people, especially those from minority groups, are suffering the most from the resource-based system that is currently in place. More specifically, these individuals are unable to post bail amounts that have been set "reasonably" low according to the state of New Jersey. As a result, these individuals are placed in jail until they are required to appear in court. However, these individuals can end up in jail for months or even years, and this is the case for individuals who have been accused of victim-less crimes such as drug possession. Even though these individuals are not considered flight risks, they are being placed in jail because they simply do not have the funding or financial support to post bail. The biggest problem with this system is that it is costly to keep these individuals who have been accused of minor crimes in jail. Not to mention, those who are accused and held in jail until trial will be deprived of jobs, opportunities to work, and the ability to spend time with positive influences in their lives. This can actually lead to these individual re-offending once they have been released.

What Needs to Change?

Presently, the state of New Jersey uses a resource-based system to determine whether an individual who has been accused of a crime will appear in court on the required trial date. In the mean time, this system is also used to ensure that the accused does not misbehave or commit any further offenses. However, this system is dependent on the fact that the accused is able to raise enough money to post bail.

The New Jersey Joint Committee on Criminal Justice, which is made up of a 26-member panel including judges, defense lawyers, and other influential public defenders, voted to implement a new system that would be based solely on risk. Through this risk-based system, the bail would be determined based on whether the accused would be a flight risk or danger to others. Using this new system, the goal is reduce the number of individuals who have been accused of victim-less crimes being placed in jail until their trials. In addition, a secondary objective is to increase the amount of money saved by helping defendants avoid jail time when it is not necessary. With an average cost of $100 per inmate, county jails could see a significant increase in savings from implementing this new risk-based system. In turn, some of the savings can be used to monitor those who have been accused of minor crimes and released until trial because they are not considered flight risks. Through this reform, the state can keep track of individuals who have been accused of crimes without having to place all of them in jail.

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