New Jersey’s history-making and controversial move away from a cash bail system nearly three years ago led to a major shift in the state’s justice system, with fewer people being arrested for low-level crimes and jail populations that plummeted even more than expected, even as crime continued to fall, NJ Advance Media reports. A new study by the MDRC Center for Criminal Justice Research also showed an increase in defendants set free without conditions such as ankle-bracelet monitoring. The study was funded by Arnold Ventures, which created the risk-assessment tool now in use in place of cash bail.
The report serves as a rebuttal to the warnings sounded when New Jersey enacted its reforms. Among the fiercest critics in its first few months were local elected officials in the state’s urban centers, including Newark and Jersey City, where mayors decried the release of defendants facing gun and domestic violence charges, leading to new guidance for prosecutors. County governments also complained of the financial burdens they faced funding the overhaul. Similar warnings have sounded as New York prepares to adopt similar bail reforms. In New Jersey, the new report shows that police officers and prosecutors significantly changed tactics in response to the overhaul, relying on summonses far more often than they had before.