New bail reform law goes into effect, eliminating bail for minor crimes in New Jersey

A new bail law went into effect in New Jersey this week which eliminates bail for minor crimes. The law comes in part after voters decided to abolish the state's constitutional right to bail.

Courts will now do a risk assessment before releasing an inmate pre-trial, instead of a monetary bail system. The law also makes it easier for violent offenders to be held without bail.

Supporters of the law say it will be a way to keep poor and low-risk offenders who are charged with lesser crimes from being held in jail unfairly. The law is also meant to prevent jail overcrowding.

The Drug Policy Alliance reports that 12 percent of New Jersey's inmate population were in custody because they couldn't post bail of $2,500 or less.

But some critics say the law will make defendants more likely to re-offend and will lead to more fugitives.

Bail bondsman Kirk Shaw says that bail offices are also set to lose jobs. Before the new law was in place, friends and family would post bail money and pick up their defendants from jail.

"The people have no skin in the game, they're going to be released unaccountable at the taxpayer's expense," Shaw says. "Taxpayers need to know your municipalities will be paying for this, you county's going to be paying for this and your state's going to be paying for this."

Some local governments are also opposed to the law because they say it will cost them $1 million to $2 million.

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