NJ voters to have say on bail system changes, open-space funding

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New Jersey voters will be deciding whether to approve a measure on Tuesday’s ballot to eliminate the constitutional right to bail for certain violent offenders.

 

The proposal is part of a wider recommended revamping of the state’s bail system.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and the Drug Policy Alliance say the changes would prevent poor defendants from incarceration until their trial on minor charges just because they can’t afford to post bail.

“There are up to 10,000 people in jail on any given day in New Jersey who have not been convicted of a crime, who are there simply because they have been charged with a crime, and they don’t have enough money to get out,” said Alexander Shalom with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

The American Bail Coalition opposes the constitutional amendment because, said executive director Nicholas Wachinski, the commercial bail industry has been effective.

“Some 300,000 arrests a year, and the vast majority of those folks being able to secure their release under traditional notions of bail — and most of them returning to court and doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said Monday.

Wachinski also questioned whether new court fees that are part of the bail reforms would cover the costs of hiring additional employees to administer risk assessments.

Supporters say it would prevent violent offenders awaiting trial from victimizing more people.

Gov. Chris Christie has already signed the enabling legislation, but the final say is up to voters.

Voters Tuesday also will be asked about funding open space preservation.

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