TRENTON, NJ – August 11, 2014, 2:00 P.M.  Governor Christie’s signature of Bail Reform (S946) and the Opportunity to Compete Act (A1999) will put New Jersey on the path to abolishing our pretrial “debtors’ prison” and expanding economic opportunity for redeemed individuals.

Senate Bill 946 will revamp a broken system that currently keeps nearly 6,000 people locked up before trial merely because they are unable to afford bail – not because they have been determined to be a danger to the community.  Jerome C. Harris, Jr., Interim President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, said, “It is a shameful injustice that we continue to have systems that punish poverty.  The current system of pretrial release punishes New Jersey citizens of limited economic means by using bail as the sole tool of pretrial release.  S946 will reform the system by requiring that defendants be screened objectively for risk; those who pose no danger will be released, and those who are truly dangerous will be held.”

The importance of comprehensive bail reform is underscored by the story of the Institute’s client, Mustafa, who has two arrests in which the charges were ultimately dismissed.  Even though Mustafa was innocent, he was held for many months before he could make bail, was fired from his job because he could not report to work while in jail, and accrued nearly $10,000 in bail bondsman fees.  S946 will prevent people like Mustafa from losing their jobs and incurring oppressive debt.