Report card on New Jersey bail reform

TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — Two years in, New Jersey criminal justice officials are looking into how well bail reform efforts are working out. Bottom line? They’re making progress but there’s more work to do. 

The plan is to make sure suspects without the means to cover cash bail for nonviolent crimes didn’t linger behind bars until trial. For the most part, those efforts are working. 

“The tool is creating a fairer and more equitable system for deciding who should be released or who should be detained,” Judge Glenn Grant, administrative director of New Jersey’s courts, told KYW Newsradio. “We have substantially lower jail populations and it has begun to partially address the racial disparity that we see in our jail and our system.”  

Overall, jail population is down by some 6,000 inmates statewide compared to 2012.

“Seventy-five percent of the people that are detained in our county jails are being detained with at least one serious charge,” he added.    

But more than half of those incarcerated are still African-American, just one ongoing concern that the report suggests needs to be addressed. It also recommends a better risk assessment in cases of domestic violence.

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Grant also warns that the program itself, paid for by court fees, is losing money. Without predictable additional funding – in other words, a line item in the state budget – the program could be in financial trouble in a year or so.

That warning, also included in the report, is a not-so-subtle hint to legislators and Gov. Phil Murphy.

“I had to bring that to their attention, had to make certain that they were prioritizing this,” Grant said. “This is the budget season. This is the appropriate time to be engaged in those conversations.”

He’s confident he’ll get some help and suggests a $15 million annual appropriation would be just right.

Click here to read the complete 52 page report.

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