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When Debating Its Bail Reform Law, New York Should Look to New Jersey’s Success

In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal, Arnold Ventures Co-Founders and Co-Chairs Laura and John Arnold suggest that states looking to enact or amend bail reform legislation should consider New Jersey as a national model.

Associated Press

As New York reconsiders its bail reform law, policymakers in that state and others should look to New Jersey’s successful model of pretrial reform, Arnold Ventures Co-Founders and Co-Chairs Laura and John Arnold write in the The Wall Street Journal.

The uproar in New York is an opportunity to rethink the state’s approach to reflect what research and experience has shown is safe and effective,” the Arnolds write. New York need only look to New Jersey for an example of a successful law.”

Pretrial reform, especially around the use of cash bail, remains critically important to the twin goals of improving community safety and well-being and reducing racial and economic inequity. Under cash bail, individuals with access to wealth can buy their way out of jail regardless of their likelihood of avoiding rearrest or appearing at their court dates. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of people unlikely to reoffend or miss their court dates remain locked up before their trials simply because they cannot afford to pay for their release. 

This system of wealth-based detention drives mass incarceration, does little to improve community safety or court appearance rates, and is actually is associated with higher recidivism. Furthermore, it has significant individual, social, and economic repercussions as people can lose their jobs, their homes, their driver’s licenses, and precious time with their loved ones.

New Jersey’s bipartisan bail reform, implemented in 2017, has become a successful national model of how to essentially eliminate cash bail, reduce jail populations, and ensure community safety through judicial discretion. The Garden State model has also been praised by policymakers from across the political spectrum, including Republican politicians, prosecutors, and New Jersey’s Republican-appointed former attorney general.

In their op-ed, the Arnolds point to how New Jersey’s evidence-based reform protects individual liberty while empowering judges to prioritize community safety, and encouraged New York to strike a similar balance. 

In reforming its bail statute, the New York Legislature should adhere to three basic principles backed by research and evidence,” the Arnolds write. First, wealth isn’t a proxy for assessing risk to public safety or flight risk. Second, judges should be empowered to assess a defendant’s risk to the community and impose appropriate conditions, including detention when necessary. Third, the system must hold accountable people who re-offend.”

Read the full op-ed here: On Bail Reform, New York Should Look to New Jersey