New Jersey has put out a Uniform Crime Report last October that suggested a decrease in crime that just so happened to occur after bail reform was instituted in that state. WNYC picked up on the story and reported on this, pointing out that rather than a crime spike in the wake of bail reform, the numbers actually dropped.
That has a lot of people very happy, and some are going so far as to suggest that bail reform was the CAUSE of the decreasing crime rates. But that claim is a bit disingenuous, and it’s for good reason that the article that report comes from is labeled “Editorial.” Something like “Speculation” may be better, but we’ll settle for semi-truthful for the moment.
What Don’t We Know About New Jersey Bail Reform?
Well, the American Bail Coalition points out, rightly, that we don’t really know anything about how bail reform is going, and then goes on to list information that has not been released, despite a two-year period to prepare for such reporting. Among the things we don’t know:
- Performance data – no data on failures to appear, recidivism, violations of conditional release, or any other similar data have been release. In Maryland, where similar reforms have occurred and HAVE been reported on, those numbers all look bad. Really bad.
- Cost savings – whoops. Bail reform has cost more than the state figured, and the cost savings that were supposed to be realized have not been. The funding will run out this year, and millions more dollars will be needed to keep the program afloat.
- Releases and Reoffending – many being released (including those accused of violent crimes), are going on to reoffend quite quickly. One woman was released without bail after shooting another woman in the face (and there was a witness that corroborated the charge).
- Preventative detention – 16,062 were held for preventative reason in just 23 months. The exact opposite of what “reformers” hoped to achieve. What gives?
Victory Cries Ring Hollow
It seems, then, that without any real data, we’re left to wonder both what is really going on with bail reform in New Jersey (other than the aforementioned face-shooting), and why folks are claiming victory when none is suggested, much less proven? Hard to say…but that seems to be just how these things go. Better to make an assertion and not prove it than to not make the assertion at all. The “because I said so” rule seem to be in effect.