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The impact of New Jersey’s cash bail reform

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

In 2014, voters in New Jersey approved a constitutional amendment to end pretrial detention for people who cannot pay their bail.

The cash bail reform came into effect in 2017. With this change, instead of requiring cash bail, New Jersey courts and judges evaluate an individual’s risk to determine whether they may be released or stay in jail before their trial.

Predictably, not everyone supported this shift. Today, some lawmakers still criticize other politicians for being “too soft on crime” and call for the return of cash bail.

However, a study about the reform’s impact on public safety showed that the number of people detained pretrial has significantly dropped, but the number of crimes has not increased.

Reduced incarceration without increasing crime

In May 2024, a group of researchers published a study evaluating bail reform’s effect on gun violence. The study’s proponent started with the hypothesis that the amendment would not result in increased violence but might even reduce it.

While their research did not find that the reform reduces violence, they discovered that it didn’t increase gun violence. Moreover, their findings are consistent with previous studies that have found no increases in new criminal charges against those released pretrial under bail reform.

The results of the research suggest that bail reform may be crucial for lowering the number of jail incarcerations without exacerbating violence within the community.

The limitations of the study

Like all research, the study about the amendment has its limitations. First, it only evaluated data from three years before the reform took effect, from 2014 to 2016, and three years after, from 2017 to 2019.

Moreover, the researchers did not completely account for all other elements that might be impacting rates of gun violence in the state.

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