|"The existing bail system is not fair to poor defendants who, because they cannot post bail, are cut off from families, may lose their jobs, and may go without access to medication for a period of time. In terms of the charges against them, studies have shown that they face tougher plea offers and pressure to plead guilty because of the amount of time they have already spent in jail, and they receive longer sentences as compared to similarly situated defendants who were able to make bail." - Chief Justice Stuart Rabner|
|"Bail reform and speedy trial reform collectively represent a historic shift in the way our courts administer justice. We need everyone, whether you are part of the criminal division, in a finance office, part of the family division or any other part of the Judiciary, to learn about these reforms and be ready to do your part when called upon for the success of these efforts." - Judge Glenn A. Grant acting administrative director of the courts|
Welcome to the Criminal Justice Reform Information Center. Here you will find information related to the efforts of the Judiciary and its criminal justice reform partners in state, county and municipal government to implement bail and speedy trial reform and to form a pretrial services unit.
On Jan. 1, 2017, the state shifted from a system that relies principally on setting monetary bail as a condition of release to a risk-based system that is more objective, and thus fairer to defendants because it is unrelated to their ability to pay monetary bail. The statute also sets deadlines for the timely filing of an indictment and the disposition of criminal charges for incarcerated defendants.
The criminal justice system is rooted in two principles: That those accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty and that they have a constitutional right to a speedy trial.
Under the current system in which judges set a dollar amount of bail, poor defendants who pose little risk of danger or flight are sometimes held in county jail because they can't make even modest amounts of bail.
One study revealed that about 12 percent of New Jersey's county jail population remained in custody because they couldn't post bail of $2,500 or less. More than two-thirds of these indigent defendants were members of racial and cultural minority groups.
Meanwhile, under current law, defendants with assets can post bail and be released even if they pose a serious risk of flight or danger to the public.
Under criminal justice reform, judges will assess the level of risk each defendant presents and impose conditions of release. Judges will use an objective risk-assessment tool that has been tested and validated with data from thousands of actual cases in New Jersey.
Judges will consider factors such as the defendant's age at the time of arrest, pending charges, prior convictions and whether any of those involved violence, prior failures to appear, and prior jail sentences.
With that information, each defendant will be classified as low, moderate, or high risk and may be released on conditions without having to post monetary bail. Defendants who are released pretrial will be monitored by pretrial services staff, similar to those in the federal system and a number of states.
The staff, who will be employed in a pretrial services unit that will be part of the Judiciary, will complete risk assessments so that a judge can set conditions of release within 48 hours of each arrest. The staff will monitor defendants on release based on the level of supervision that each defendant requires. For low-risk defendants, that could amount to nothing more than a phone call or text to remind them to show up in court. As the risk level increases, the nature of the monitoring will be enhanced.
Judges also will be able to order those defendants who pose a serious risk of flight, or a serious risk of danger to the community or to witnesses to be held without bail.
The speedy trial component will set limits on the amount of time a defendant can remain detained before trial. There are three distinct speedy trial limits:
The move to reform the state's criminal justice system grew from the work of the Joint Committee on Criminal Justice, a special committee of the Supreme Court established by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to examine the issues of bail and speedy trial reform. The committee included the attorney general, public defender, judges and representatives of the executive and legislative branches, county prosecutors, defense counsel, court administration and the American Civil Liberties Union. It drafted a series of recommendations that were incorporated into landmark legislation. In addition, voters in November 2014 approved a constitutional change that becomes effective in January 2017 to permit judges to keep high-risk defendants detained without bail.