The New Jersey criminal justice system is in for a big change on Jan. 1, when the state will embark on a new way of dealing with people charged with crimes, allowing the vast majority to remain free without having to pay bail, reports the Record. At the same time, new “speedy trial” rules will take effect with the goal of making sure that prisoners who are kept in jail don’t languish there for longer than six months before they’re tried. “We’ve got people waiting in jail for trial for minor offenses for over a year because they can’t raise $2,500 bail,” said one judge. The requirement for speedy trials will have a significant financial impact because counties will have to pay for more prosecutors and sheriff’s officers so that legal proceedings can move more quickly. Pre-trial risk assessments will be accelerated, and there will be increased staffing pressures to keep track of defendants who are released while awaiting trial.
John Donnadio, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties, said it will take an estimated $45 million in startup costs for counties to comply with the new rules. “We support the concept of bail reform,” he said. “But we’re just looking for relief from the Legislature, whether from an appropriation or delaying the policy for a year so we can get a better handle on what the costs are.” But Ed Barocas, legal director of the ACLU of New Jersey, disagreed that the state was required to provide funding. “There is a constitutional requirement for a speedy trial, and you can’t avoid that by saying there’s no funding,” he said.