Bail reform took many states by storm several years ago. The reforms, implemented in New Jersey, New York, and other states with large urban populations, freed many defendants who could not afford bail while awaiting trial on various criminal charges. The reforms addressed a serious due-process issue, holding presumptively innocent defendants in jail for long periods simply because they couldn't afford bail. The reforms also addressed a racial disparity in which more poor urban minorities remained in jail awaiting trial. Sponsoring lawmakers hailed the reforms as groundbreaking examples of due process, racial justice, and economic equity. The reforms also significantly reduced pretrial incarceration numbers, saving substantial personal loss and institutional costs. Opponents expressed safety and security concerns.
Coming Partial Rollbacks?
A recent press report indicates that a proposed bill in the New Jersey legislature would turn back bail reform to once again lock up defendants charged with first-degree and second-degree gun crimes. Importantly, the bill, if approved, would only be a partial rollback. Authorities would hold for bail only those defendants whom prosecutors charged with the more serious gun crimes qualifying as first- or second-degree crimes, plus the murder and other especially high-risk defendants whom the reforms had never reached in the first place. Bail reform would remain in place, and defendants would continue to go free without bail for other crimes. The press report does not speculate on the bill's likelihood of passage. The bill already saw a significant amendment to make it out of committee and may take yet a different form to pass the legislature and garner the governor's signature.
The Cause for the Proposed Partial Rollback
The above press report indicates the cause for the proposed partial bail-reform rollback. Gun violence has surged in New Jersey cities and cities elsewhere since bail reform. Bail reform may or may not have been a cause of that surge in gun violence. Crime patterns have complex causes if they have discernible causes at all. Their causes may more often be economic and social than legal and political, depending on who you ask and when you ask. But the New Jersey legislation is certainly within its powers, and it may be responding appropriately to public concern when it considers returning to jail at least some of those pretrial detainees whom its bail reform freed.
The Effect of Pretrial Detention
One thing is for sure: Pretrial detainees who remain incarcerated while awaiting trial suffer severe personal and legal disadvantages. Defendants who go free without bail or who pay bail to gain their freedom can continue to work, care for their families, and otherwise live their lives, while defendants who remain incarcerated awaiting trial cannot. And defendants who go free while awaiting trial can help their criminal defense attorney defend the charge, while those who remain incarcerated cannot contribute to the same effect. If you face, or someone you love faces, a New Jersey criminal charge that threatens incarceration until trial, retain premier New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm for your aggressive and effective representation. Don't get stuck in jail awaiting trial. Call 888-535-3686 or go online now.