In response to Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios’s commentary on January 6:
Freeholder Director Rios is correct that the changes to our pretrial system are a “sound reform for defendants.” Bail reform will create a fairer and safer pretrial system in New Jersey.
Prior to the new law, too many individuals were held in jail solely because they were poor – nearly 10% of individuals could not afford a bail of $2,500 or less.
The new law prioritizes public safety by moving to a risk-based system, where decisions about pretrial release are based on risk to public safety, and not on someone’s financial status.
Freeholder Director Rios is also correct that the new system comes with a price. He is incorrect however, that each County must fund the entire cost of the reform. When the law was passed, the legislature appropriated $22 million dollars to the Judiciary to be used for implementation. It is those monies that will support the Statewide Pretrial Services Program responsible for the risk assessment and supervision.
While there may be some County costs, County leadership must be transparent about the cost-savings they will realize under the new law.
In New Jersey it costs approximately $100 a day to hold an individual in jail. Jailing someone who cannot pay, for instance, $500 bail, can cost taxpayers more than $30,000 per year—just while that person awaits trial. It only costs $7 a day to supervise someone in the community.
Alexandra Staropoli, Esq.
Policy Manager, New Jersey
Drug Policy Alliance