Will NY bail reform threaten public safety? Similar New Jersey law says no

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) Bail reform is coming to New York State on January 1, and many in law enforcement are worried about public safety because of it. 

The law is intended to reduce the number of people held in jail prior to their trial.

Specifically, cash bail will be eliminated for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, alongside a new requirement forcing police officers to issue desk appearance tickets to most people charged with misdemeanors and Class E felonies, rather than making a custodial arrest.

The Governor’s Office says these reforms will ensure the vast majority, approximately 90%, of cases where people are charged, but not yet convicted of a crime, will remain out of jail before their day in court.

They say it is similar to a criminal justice system reform in New Jersey enacted January 1, 2017.

The work on the reform started as early as 2012 and may be the most lasting legacy of Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The conclusion in a report released this past spring to the New Jersey Governor and Legislature found the Criminal Justice Reform, or CJR, is working as intended while assuring community safety.

The report compares statistics from before CJR and after it took effect. It shows predictions of an increase in crime under CJR did not materialize.

Here are just some highlights of the report:

The rate of defendants charged with new criminal activity while out on pre-trial release was virtually the same as under the cash bail system, 12.7% in 2014 and 13.7% in 2017. Authors of the report, the New Jersey Courts, caution small changes likely do not represent meaningful differences.

Looking solely at defendants released pretrial in 2017, less than 3% were accused of committing what would be considered a “no early release act or graves act offense.”

The report also concludes that on the other end of the spectrum, higher-risk individuals who pose a danger to the community or not expected to reappear in court are no longer able to secure their release simply because they have access to funds.

More than 70% of CJR defendants are released on a summons pending the disposition of their cases, without first being sent to jail. The vast majority of those arrested in New Jersey who are jailed under CJR were released in 24 to 48 hours.

The rate at which defendants appeared in court remained high after the reform law, with an average appearance rate of 92.7% in 2014 and 89.4% in 2017.

Click here to read the full report.

For more local news, follow Jeff Kulikowsky on Twitter @JeffNC9

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