New Jersey Bail Reform Earns Top Grade in the Nation

A new report from the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) shines a light on the poor state of pretrial processes in the United States – with the exception of New Jersey.

While the country was given an overall grade of a D, New Jersey emerged as the only state to earn an A. Eight states received Bs, 10 states received Cs, 13 states received Ds and 17 states failed. Delaware was not graded due to incomplete data, according to the report.

The report reviewed how states process people between the time of arrest and sentencing. The organization decided the analysis was necessary due to increased awareness of disproportionate detention rates before trial – specifically, the fact that poor and working-class people are detained more often than those with access to money, who can walk free while they await charging.

New Jersey’s stellar results stemmed from bail reforms, which were approved in 2014 and implemented earlier this year. The changes include replacing a money bail system with an analytics program that helps judges decide whether to detain a person before the trial or release them with some degree of monitoring.

These changes, along with dropping crime rates statewide, have resulted in lower detention rates. PJI reported the number of people held in jails while awaiting trial dropped by 15 percent in the first six months of implementation, and between mid-2015 and mid-2017, the number of people held in jail while not convicted dropped by 34.1 percent.

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