With all the time Chief Justice Rabner has due to limited court hearings you would think he would have time to post the required bail reform annual report. The report to the Governor and Legislature has been published every year during the first or second quarter. Where is it?

Likely Excuse:

I’m sure we will hear “due to corona virus…” While corona has caused issues, the jails continue to operate. They should have all the statistics required to provide a report.

Monthly Statistics

New Jersey provides a monthly statistical report, by county, showing various statistics. In October 2019, the monthly statistics were held up for several months due to “an administrative error”. The jail population had increased, each month, from July through September. The jail population was tending higher than the prior year. New Jersey had been boasting declining jail populations since bail reform was implemented. Very suspicious that an administrative error is found as the jail population is trending higher. Once published, the jail population increase became a decrease.

October statistics not posted. November not posted. December not posted. Then, miraculously an administrative error is noticed three months later. Again, miraculously, the jail population dropped significantly the fourth quarter of 2019. I predicted this in my October 2019 blog. I knew Chief Justice Rabner would never let his baby, bail reform, show signs of not working. My prediction came true. When the data was finally released months later, the statistics were revised.

2018 Report Findings

The failure to appear rate increased by 50% according to 2018 data. New crime committed rate went up by 13%. Is it worse this year? Is that why a report has not been published? Are there more administrative errors that need to be corrected? Will New Jersey provide the actual data sets to be transparent?

The 2018 report also showed no “improvement” of the racial makeup of the jail. Rabner sold the Legislature on a “more fair” system for minorities. He stated the use of risk assessments would create an unbiased system. Well, three years later there was no change. Very embarrassing for the chief justice. Is racial data being manipulated so Rabner can show improvement? It would not surprise me. Other data was manipulated last year.

Now, failure to appear rates will likely go up further. Rabner recently ruled judges, prosecutors and pretrial workers cannot hold pretrial release violators in contempt. Criminals get a free pass for violating the terms of their release.

Judges detaining more pretrial

There may be a reason more judges in New Jersey are detaining more defendants. The pretrial detention rate has gone up. This means those defendants, based on an algorithm, have no ability to be released pretrial. In fact, one county is now detaining almost half of all defendants booked into the jail. New Jersey implemented bail reform because a flawed study found about 12% of the pretrial population could not pay a small bail amount. Now almost 50% have no option for release.

Yes, jail populations are down. However, it has nothing to do with the prior bail system. Police are handing out more citations than they did prior to bail reform. Citations could have been implemented without any legislation. Instead, taxpayers are stuck with the billion dollar price tag.

Is bail reform working?

The facts below are from the 2018 report. Where is the 2019 data?

  • Increased failure to appear rates.
  • More new crime committed rates.
  • Higher detention rates.
  • No racial improvement.

A cost of nearly $1 Billion! Worse pretrial release statistics. Higher pretrial detention rates. Some counties approaching 50% detention rates. All bail reform targets missed. Clearly, bail reform is not working in New Jersey.

About Ken Berke

Ken Berke is a licensed bail agent in Florida. As Executive Vice President of Roche Surety & Casualty Co. Inc. he frequently travels throughout the United States meeting with bail agents and the public to increase awareness of the professionalism and importance of the bail industry to victims, defendants and the judicial system. He is a frequent contributor to the Roche Surety blog where he dispels false claims against the 8th Amendment and bail through facts, statistics and logic.