Bail Rules Mean Poor People Will Languish in Jail

August 31, 2016

ACLU-NJ and Other Groups Instrumental to Bail Reform ‘Disappointed’ With NJ Supreme Court’s Regulations for Law

Newly adopted rules (PDF) for New Jersey’s bail reform law undermine the potential of bail reform, said the five groups that by statute serve in an advisory role for implementing the 2014 law. Under the rules adopted by the New Jersey Supreme Court yesterday, thousands of New Jerseyans will continue to languish in jail while awaiting trial for no reason other than being poor. The intention of the bail reform law was to ensure that bail in New Jersey was risk-based rather than based on ability to pay.

The five groups that serve in an official advisory role — the ACLU-NJ, Drug Policy Alliance, Latino Action Network, NAACP New Jersey State Conference, and New Jersey Institute for Social Justice — expressed extreme disappointment at the New Jersey Supreme Court’s newly codified bail reform regulations.

All five had earlier submitted recommendations to prevent unnecessary detention, and each testified before the New Jersey Supreme Court in June 2016 saying that the success of bail reform in addressing pretrial injustices would be dictated by the strength of these court rules. The Supreme Court failed to adopt any of the groups’ significant proposals, putting the reach of the bail reform law in jeopardy. The groups will remain vigilant in ensuring that, despite these rules, New Jerseyans will ultimately have use of the rights promised by the bail reform law.

The following statement may be attributed to Alexander Shalom, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU of New Jersey:

“To fix the grave injustices the bail reform law sought to address, we needed court rules that would grant defendants fair treatment before they could be detained and that promised them a speedy trial. The new rules jeopardize both guarantees. Under the court rules, New Jerseyans may end up being incarcerated for more than two years awaiting trial, perpetuating the very problem the law aimed to fix.”

The following statement may be attributed to Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director, Drug Policy Alliance:

“Without even giving the system created by the Legislature a chance, the New Jersey Supreme Court has made it easier to incarcerate people pending trial. As advocates for bail reform, we value the words of the United States Supreme Court: ‘liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.’ In issuing these bail reform rules, the New Jersey Supreme Court failed to limit that exception, and instead expanded it.”

The following statement may be attributed to Richard Smith, President, NAACP New Jersey State Conference:

“The bail reform law promised to get defendants — who are presumed innocent — to trial more quickly. As the bill progressed through the Legislature and to the Governor’s desk, New Jerseyans believed that every defendant would be tried as quickly as possible, without exception. The New Jersey Supreme Court has demolished that expectation, striking a blow at the heart of the bail reform law. The court transformed the hard limit of two years into little more than an aspiration.”

Read the groups’ earlier bail reform recommendations and the new court rules.

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