New Jersey State Commission of Investigation Releases Damning Report on Commercial Bail Industry Practices

Press Release May 20, 2014
Media Contact

<p>Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243</p>

Trenton, NJ—Today, the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation released a damning report on New Jersey’s commercial bail industry.  The report, titled Inside Out: Questionable and Abusive Practices in New Jersey’s Bail-Bond Industry, states “The bail‐bond system in New Jersey is highly prone to subversion by unscrupulous and improper practices that make a mockery of the public trust.”  It goes on to state that, “Operating in the shadows of poor government oversight, the system is dominated by an amalgam of private entrepreneurs who profit from the process but are subject to weak controls, easily manipulated or ignored with little or no consequence.”

The report also details how the bail industry makes discount bail-bond deals that undermine public safety in the judicial system and allow dangerous suspects to be released into the community.

Advocates applauded the report and praised the commission.  “This groundbreaking report lays out in stark detail how the commercial bail industry hurts New Jersey’s communities and undermines fairness and justice,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.  “The legislature must act quickly to pass real and comprehensive bail reform, in order to put a stop to the dangerous bail industry practices that have been allowed to flourish in New Jersey.  The decision whether to release someone from jail pending trial should be based on their danger to the community, not their ability to pay a for-profit bail bond company. ”

The Drug Policy Alliance has been leading a campaign to reform New Jersey’s broken bail system.  The campaign advocates for a bail system where pretrial release decisions are based on risk and not resources.  The campaign also advocates for a move away from money bail, the use of which does nothing to protect public safety or assure court appearances.

Nearly 75 percent of the 15,000 individuals in New Jersey jails are there pretrial, meaning they have not yet been convicted of a crime or found guilty by a jury.  Nearly forty percent of the total population is there solely because they cannot afford to pay bail and 12 percent have a bail amount of $2,500 or less. The average length of incarceration for pretrial inmates is more than ten months.  At the same time, dangerous individuals are able to secure their release through the unscrupulous bail industry practices detailed in today’s SCI report.

The legislature is currently considering bail reform legislation (A1910/S946) and a constitutional amendment (SCR113) that would allow for the pretrial detention of dangerous suspects and the release on non-financial conditions of low-risk individuals.  The legislation is expected to be voted on by the end of June.

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

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