Data-Driven Justice – New Jersey’s New Bail System

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When we think of cutting-edge technology, places like Silicon Valley often come to mind. However, New Jersey just tossed its ring in the hat, seeking to overhaul its criminal justice system use data-driven technology. What effect will that have on the denizens of the Garden State? What changes to the bail system, in particular, can we expect? We cover this very topic in today’s blog post.

Changes to New Jersey Bail System

In January of this year, lawmakers in New Jersey set out to change the way the court system handled bail for criminal defendants. Traditionally, the Garden State’s criminal justice system used a cash-bail system. Under this method, the judge may set a cash amount that the defendant must pay to earn their freedom or remain in jail until their court date gets set. Court systems typically view this as a “flight deterrent” rather than an additional form of punishment.

Some lawmakers view the cash bail system as flawed. As such, lawmakers have given the system a makeover. Now judges use the Public Safety Assessment (PSA). This data-driven system uses a risk assessment tool to calculate whether a person is a flight risk or not. The tool also helps determine if they might be a threat to the community.

The new bail system in New Jersey works differently. In addition to the PSA, judges take other factors into consideration. This can include facts from police reports and cases, prior convictions, and so forth.

Effects of Bail Reformation on Jail Population

So far there are no real studies involving the effect of bail reformation on overall jail populations. However, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that changes in the bail system have helped reduce the number of incarcerated.

Interestingly enough, over two-thirds of all incarcerated are “locked-up” before they have had a trial. This has a large cost to the taxpayer, costing nearly $14 billion per year.

In addition to reducing taxpayer costs, bail reform can lessen the incidence of false imprisonments. As stated, the majority of incarcerations consist of those that are still presumed innocent – or pre-trial defendants.

Types of Systems

Most people are aware of the traditional cash bail system. However, it is not the only option available for the incarcerated. In addition to the new Public Safety Assessment program in New Jersey, there are several other options available.

Another common option is a surety bond. Also known as a bail bond, surety bonds are a form of bail “insurance,” that surety companies back. In this instance, a bail bondsman receives a premium (10 percent) and requires collateral, such as a home or vehicle. This is typically an option for those that cannot afford a cash bail.

A caveat to this type of bail: it can only be obtained by a friend or relative of the arrested party. The idea is that a person is less likely to flee if they know it will result in punishment for a loved one.

Immediate Release

If you get accused of a lesser crime, you may receive a “release on citation.” This is a citation that is issued alerting the accused that they must appear in court. It skips the booking process and allows a policeman to spend their time catching more serious criminals.

Property bonds are similar to surety or bail bonds. In this case, a defendant can use their property as a bond. If the accused does not appear in court, they will lose their property, as the court will foreclose on the asset to make up for the forfeited bail.

Finally, some states allow for judges to release suspects under what is known as “personal recognizance.” Typically, this applies to minor offenses, as the accused is responsible for showing up to court without paying for bail or bonding an asset. This is never an option for flight risk or people that might pose a danger to society.

Learn more about bail types.

New Jersey Bail Defense Attorney

Do you need more information about bails in New Jersey? Seeking an NJ criminal defense attorney?  Call Douglas Herring at 609-201-0155 for a free New Jersey criminal defense consultation, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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