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New Jersey implemented a new and improved bail system recently, and already it is making a splash in national headlines. Many are praising the New Jersey reformed bail system, and calling for similar measures in other states across the country. There are still opponents, however, who believe that this new system is only making a bad problem worse, and causing trouble for innocent citizens. There was a recent PBS report, which covered the situation in depth, and provided some unique insights. For that article, look here.

New Jersey Reformed Bail System Outlines

The reformed New Jersey reformed bail system has a few details which set it apart from similar reforms that have been tried in the past. These changes received bipartisan support in the legislative process, and continue to see approval along both sides of the aisle.

The first of these amendments was that violent offenders are now able to hold, pending trial, without any offer of bail. This measure automatically reduces the risk of failure to appear for these offenders, and this ensures that the focus is on public safety and justice for everyone involved in the issue. The theory is that violent offenders cannot be considered safe to release, with or without financial assurance in the form of cash bail; for the safety of the community and the defendants, it is best that they remain in custody until their trial.

The second reform was abolishing cash bails requirements for non-violent offenders. This was a pretty straightforward process and opened the way for the truly modern and revolutionary reform which seems to have made all the difference.

There is now an evaluation system which ranks and rates offenses in each case and calculates the chance of flight risk for each defendant. This new evaluation takes the form of a computer algorithm. The data from each defendant’s past criminal record is input into the program and analyzed to determine the potential for flight risk if the defendant is released. The program assigns two scores, each numbering between 1 and 6, and a judge or other official then makes a determination about these scores to determine release or detainment status of the defendant.

High scores or five or six on each formula can indicate a high flight risk, as well as a high risk of committing further crimes if released before trial, or high risk of harm to self or others if the defendant is not detained before their trial.

Under this new system, defendants from poor backgrounds are not financially harmed, as they were under the previous cash bail system. With these new reforms, defendants who are released prior to their trials are required to check in with the judicial system, by phone, email, or in person, in the days and weeks leading up to their trial. In the meantime, they are able to return to work to provide for their families. They may be required to wear electronic monitors as an added incentive to remain on good behavior and in the area prior to their trial, but this is so far a much more effective and manageable system than the prior version for another reason.

Trials are no longer months down the road or even years. From the time of the defendant’s release to the actual beginning of the trial is now on the fast track. Prosecutors must bring cases for nonviolent offenders with low release evaluation scores to the court within a month of arraignment in most cases. This reduces the time frame in which a defendant could attempt to skip town and fail to appear in court, and reduces the tax burden on the community because investigations do not drag on for months or years any longer under this system.

Some Good Some Bad

While many in the communities are pleased with the results of the New Jersey Reformed Bail System, some police officers and bail bond companies are not as ecstatic. They believe that the bail system was the only way to ensure alleged criminals would refrain from committing more crimes, due to the financial penalties for further offense and re-arrest. Officers also feel slighted, because they put in hours and hours of work compiling evidence against these defendants, as well as protecting victims and members of the community; and it seems like every time they turn around, another criminal is back on the streets, pending trial, with naught but an ankle monitor and a phone call to keep them toeing the line.

There seems to be good and bad to both sides of this issue, but with the New Jersey reformed New Jersey Bail System only having been in effect for a little less than a year, only time may tell whether this revolution is here to stay. For any further questions contact us.


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