Until 2017, every state conditioned pretrial release on cash bail. Judges across the United States predicted the risk individuals posed of failing to appear and the danger to the community. As a result, indigent individuals waited in jails merely because they could not afford their bail. In 2017, New Jersey spearheaded the movement to change how the bail system operates by passing the Criminal Justice Reform Act (“CJRA”), which created an objective decision-making tool called the Public Safety Assessment.
Today, New Jersey judges are no longer required to speculate about the future decisions of individual defendants. Instead, the Public Safety Assessment provides a tool for judges throughout the state to uniformly assess the risks based on statistical data. The CJRA uses algorithms and statistical calculations, from which judges use a Decision-Making Framework to determine whether bond is appropriate and the terms and conditions of that bond. The CJRA has virtually eliminated monetary bond entirely.
Two years later, in 2019, both New Jersey’s pretrial jail population and crime rate have decreased. Furthermore, judges can rely on analytics that remove the guesswork from bail decisions. Most importantly, no one in the state of New Jersey is incarcerated prior to trial for the sole reason of indigency.
This Comment will recommend that states abandon a predominantly cash bail framework and use New Jersey’s risk assessment tool. Ultimately, this Comment concludes that adopting New Jersey’s framework will decrease the pretrial jail population, decrease the crime rate, and ensure that no individual is incarcerated prior to trial for the sole reason they are indigent.
Reimel, David III
"Algorithms & Instruments: The Effective Elimination of New Jersey’s Cash Bail System and Its Replacement,"
Penn State Law Review: Vol. 124
, Article 5.
Available at: https://elibrary.law.psu.edu/pslr/vol124/iss1/5