Senator Kristin M. Corrado issued the following statement encouraging lawmakers to return to Trenton to address critical flaws in New Jersey bail reform that are putting Law Enforcement Officers and New Jerseyans’ lives at risk.
“We hear from members of Law Enforcement and angered citizens nearly every day that bail reform simply isn’t working. New Jerseyans feel that their quality of life is on the decline because of rising crime and car thefts. These problems need to be addressed by the Legislature immediately to protect the lives of all New Jerseyans and to retain the hardworking police officers who put their lives on the line every day,” said Corrado (R-40). “Criminals are often let off the hook with nothing more than a slap on the wrist because of bail reform. Legislative polices have, in many cases, handcuffed our amazing men and women in Law Enforcement and prevented Judges from doing their job. The Senate should return to Trenton to make bail reform a top legislative priority to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe.”
Senator Corrado’s call to action spurred from conversations discussing bail reform with police chiefs from Fairfield, Wayne, Cedar Grove, and Wyckoff.
“My experience tells me that the law enforcement pendulum always swings back and forth between law and order and crime and chaos. I’m sorry to say that I am convinced, now more than ever that even with everything law enforcement does to protect and serve its citizens, it will never ever be successful or enough as long as there are no consequences for criminals who are actually being protected by laws that our representatives have enacted,” said Anthony G. Manna, Chief of the Fairfield Police Department. “It is hard enough these days to keep the morale of our officers high without the effects of a revolving door criminal justice system.”
New Jersey’s bail reform went into effect in 2017 after the legislature ushered legislation that essentially eliminated cash bail and replaced it with a computerized, formulaic “risk assessment system.” The intent was to prevent individuals charged with non-violent minor offenses from languishing in jail, but the result is that bail reform has pushed violent and repeat offenders back onto the streets just to victimize law abiding citizens all over again.
“We can’t expect officer morale to remain high when individuals are released from custody before their arrest reports are completed. Something must be done. We cannot continue down this path. The intent of bail reform was to lower incarceration rates while still ensuring public safety,” said John J. Kennedy, Chief of the Cedar Grove Police Department. “Our criminal justice system appears to be failing the very people it was meant to serve. The rapid release of violent offenders undermines the fundamental principles of how our criminal justice system should function.”
Wayne Police Chief Jack McNiff cited several repeat offenders that have avoided jail time despite dozens of arrests, and some with more than 200 encounters with the police in the span of just a few years.
“Bail reform in New Jersey has been a complete failure, has endangered our communities, and has been a significant cause of frustration for the amazing men and women who put themselves in harm’s way each day to keep us safe. New Jersey has some of the finest, most committed, and the best trained police officers in the nation. Yet we are powerlessly handcuffed by rules that reward criminal recidivism and the unnecessary victimization of our communities,” said Police Chief McNiff. “What is more frustrating is the fact that we, as police officers, have to be soundboards for victims and residents who are fed up and angered when suspects are repeatedly released only to victimize again. It’s time to give this State back to our communities and not placate those who choose unabashed and government-facilitated victimization as a way of life.”
In New Jersey, arrest rates are on the rise while prosecutions are down. According to the State’s Criminal Justice Data Dashboard, the number of victims in most categories of crimes, including domestic violence, simple and aggravated assault, sexual assault, and stalking increased in 2022 compared to 2021. There was also a considerable rise of property crime, such as auto theft, in New Jersey last year as reported by the FBI.
“The impact of Bail Reform on law enforcement across the state has been significant. In our smaller community, we’ve observed an increased demand for processing arrests due to their higher frequency, which, in turn, has had a cascading effect, diverting resources from our core patrol functions,” said David V. Murphy, Chief of the Wyckoff Police Department. “Furthermore, there’s been a notable rise in more violent and brazen types of crimes. We are in need of assistance to address this issue and return our communities to their previous state, as both our residents and dedicated police officers rightfully deserve.”
Senator Corrado believes that it is evident by the Police Chief’s accounts that the issues surrounding bail reform need to be addressed and rectified immediately by the Legislature to prevent dangerous criminals from winding up back on the street just to further victimize the public.