Bail Reform; a success? by Richard Blender -Broadway Insurance & Surety Company Chief Legal Officer
April 25/ 2017
I have read articles recently published praising the success of the new bail reform bill and thought, how do you define “success?” If success is defined as releasing practically every defendant arrested for a crime in New Jersey, including those charged with serious offenses like rape, robbery, carjacking, possession of weapons, drug-dealers, and those with long criminal records, without any form of bail within 48 hours of arrest, then you are correct, a success. Let’s all celebrate. If success is defined as emptying the jails of serious, violent, habitual criminals, without any accountability, yes, another success. If success is charging New Jersey taxpayers with the cost of paying for bail reform, and not the criminals themselves, again, a success, even if that means increasing property taxes. But don’t listen to me, listen to some of those involved in the criminal justice system:
The Ocean County Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution calling for the immediate halt of the risk assessment system used in making detention decisions, which has led to the ill-advised release of serious offenders. And they complained that the new system requires more time and work, taking officers off the streets to fill out paperwork, straining police budgets and making officers unavailable to answer emergency calls.
Newark Police Detective and Union President James Stewart, Jr., has stated the new bail reform law is letting criminals walk free and police are demoralized. “Low income doesn’t equate to ‘he’s a good guy.’ “ As President of the Fraternal Order of Police-Newark Lodge, he wrote a letter to the New Jersey Attorney General asking for help to deal with the “crisis” they now face.
Newark Police Director Anthony Ambrose directly correlates the increase in crime in Newark since the implementation of the new bail reform bill, adding despite adding more police officers, there is an increase in property crimes since the first of the year.
The New Jersey Association of Counties calculates the cost of implementing bail reform will cost New Jersey County’s alone an additional $40-50 million every year, which cost will have to be passed onto property owners.
The Administrative Office of the Courts estimates it will cost the judiciary another $50 million to implement the system every year it’s in effect. The risk assessment personnel are so overworked they have absolutely no time to monitor defendants as promised.
The Township of Belleville, with the support of Mayor Raymond Kimble, the former township police chief, passed a resolution asking the Legislature to repeal the defective bail reform bill. Councilman Kevin Kennedy called the new bail system “asinine.”
Howell Township Police Chief Andrew J. Kudrick estimates bail reform has already cost the township an additional $100,000.00 in overtime, and “has resulted in the loss of a police officer position as well as decreased coverage on the road.”
Even in the small town of West Milford, police overtime is expected to increase this year, and the police department is already seeking an additional $20,000.00, primarily to transport those arrested to the Passaic County Jail to be processed, and additional costs are anticipated. Police officers are now becoming Uber drivers, driving defendants back and forth to the County Jail.
Mayor Steve Fulop of Jersey City criticized legislators for devising a system of bail reform that makes it easier for people charged with illegal guns to be released, keeping his city from “turning a corner” on preventing gun violence.
Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez has publicly stated the system is not working: “It’s not uncommon for us to effectuate arrests and the defendants, the criminals, are sitting there taunting our detectives and Jersey City Police, saying “oh I’ll be out by the end of the day, I’ll be back on the street tomorrow.” And you know what? They’re right.”
Yes, serious offenders should be held without bail. Yes, minor offenders should be released without any bail. But most other offenders should be required to post some sort of bail, paid by them, not the taxpayers of New Jersey, for the protection of New Jersey citizens. The bail reform system created is not just “get out of jail free;” its “get out of jail free at the taxpayer’s expense,” without any form of accountability. THIS IS NOT A SUCCESS.
Richard P. Blender, Esq.
Chief Legal Officer of
Broadway Insurance & Surety Company