New Jersey enacts landmark bail reform; other states follow suit.
As 2017 started, New Jersey rolled out its new bail system, which permits the use of money bail as a last resort only, and requires judges to first consider nonfinancial conditions of release. The results of the new system were impressive. Between January 1 and November 30, 2017, New Jersey saw its pretrial jail population drop by 16.4 percent; and comparing November 2017 to November 2015 shows a 35 percent drop.
Many other states and localities passed legislation and gained momentum for bail reform:
- In Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law a bail reform bill that limited the use of money bail for many misdemeanor offenses and required courts to set an additional option for payment of bail other than the full cash amount.
- Voters in New Mexico approved a constitutional amendment to their bail system that would reduce pretrial detention for low-risk individuals.
- In Kentucky, a new system of “administrative release,” which allows some people charged with misdemeanor-level offenses to avoid jail while awaiting trial, went into effect in January 2017.
- In California, legislative efforts for state bail reform gained traction, with a push by community and advocacy groups, as well as the support of the state’s governor and the chief judge of its highest court.
- Local jurisdictions also took action in 2017. New Orleans passed an ordinance that requires speedy bail hearings, limits the maximum amount of cash bail, and eliminates bail for most nonviolent offenses; while Philadelphia and San Francisco issued reports examining the impact of cash bail.