Criminal Justice Reform has reduced jail populations and revenue in its first year, according to the one year report released Tuesday.
The reforms were meant to change how bail is handled, turning it from a dollar-based bail to setting up conditions that see many defendants released either on summonses or with certain conditions.
A result was a 20 percent reduction in jail population from Jan. 1, 2017, to Jan. 1 of this year. It’s down 35 percent from Jan. 1, 2015.
But electronic monitoring alone cost the state $784,017 in the first year of the reforms.
There was also a 2.4 percent decline in revenue collection in the first six months of the current fiscal year— July 1 to Dec. 31, 2017 — over the same timeframe in the previous year.
There have been concerns from municipal agencies and the public about the release of many defendants on summonses rather than being jailed and required to post bail.
Just 44 of the state’s 44,319 defendants charged on warrants last year were required to post monetary bail as a condition of release.
Nearly 69 percent of those charged last year were released on summonses without going to jail.
Detention hearings are an option for prosecutors to request that a defendant be held pending resolution of their case.
For those, a public safety assessment is made. Defendants are given two scores: one for failure to appear and one for likelihood to commit another crime. Those least likely to not appear or to commit another crime are given 1s. Those with high likelihood get 6s.
While the assessment includes recommendations for either release or detention, judges can make their own decision based upon the information presented to them by both sides during the detention hearing.
Prosecutors made motions for detention of 19,366 of the 44,319 defendants who were arrested, or just less than 44 percent. Judges ordered detention in less than half of those cases — 8,043. Another 5,350 were either withdrawn or dismissed.
There are major challenges to full implementation of the program, according to the report submitted by Glenn Grant, acting administrative director of the courts.
Expenses for the Pretrial Services Program will exceed revenues beginning in fiscal year 2018.
“The funding of an ongoing court operation through court filing fees is simply not sustainable,” according to the report. “Continued success of the Pretrial Services Program requires a stable and dedicated funding stream at an appropriate level through the General Fund, rather than from court fee revenue.”
There are also staffing limitations, causing an inability to offer necessary services to certain defendants released on pretrial monitoring.
“Defendants are at times in need of support to address outstanding mental health, housing or substance abuse issues,” the report states. “In order for these individuals to be truly successful, the state needs to develop access to community-based substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment and housing assistance programs.”
New York Public Radio and the Marshall Project will host “Bail Reform: One Year Later – Examining New Jersey’s Historic Change and the Road Ahead,” a community discussion on the reforms.
It will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22, at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick.
Attendance is free but requires registration. Those interested in registering can click HERE.