New Data on Jail Population Decline Under Bail Reform Shows New Jersey’s Leadership on Pretrial Justice

Press Release June 28, 2017
Media Contact

Roseanne Scotti, 609-610-8243
Fiona Druge, 646-755-6126

Trenton — Today, the Administrative Office of the Court released statistics that show New Jersey’s jail population has continued to decline as the result of the successful implementation of the statewide bail reform on January 1st of this year. The data shows that jail populations across the state had declined 19% by the end of May. That marks a 36% drop statewide compared to May of 2015 – with declines of as much as 49% in some counties.

“The numbers mark the success of bail reform in New Jersey, and prove the reform restored fairness to our justice system while protecting public safety,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “We’re already seeing the benefits for taxpayers. The decline in jail population shows jail beds are now being used more appropriately – only for those people who judges deem too high of a risk to the community before trial.”

“Under the old money bail system, dangerous defendants were able to buy their way out of jail while poor, lower-risk people were stuck behind bars simply because they couldn’t afford their freedom. The reform corrected that glaring public safety loophole while making the system fairer.”

In the new system, judges utilize an evidence-based risk assessment tool to help them make pretrial release decision. The reform also gives judges the ability to detain high risk individuals who pose a risk to public safety, while releasing lower risk individuals with conditions and supervision. As of the end of May, 13% of individuals were detained pending trial. The use of money bail is deprioritized under the reform – only 9 money bails have been set statewide this year according today’s data release.

The Drug Policy Alliance led the coalition that won passage of this reform in 2014. They sit on the legislatively created Pretrial Services Program Review Commission, which is charged with monitoring and evaluating implementation of the bail reform law and shall report annually to the Governor and the Supreme Court.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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