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Should Dangerous Defendants Be Denied Bail? [AUDIO]

A newly released report by the state Supreme Court‘s Joint Committee on Criminal Justice recommends that New Jersey judges be awarded the discretion to deny bail to defendants who pose a danger to the community.

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Chief Justice Stuart Rabner unveiled the report on Thursday.

“The state constitution guarantees all defendants the right to bail,” Rabner said in a conference call with reporters. “That means that in all cases, judges must set release conditions, and they rely heavily on setting specific dollar amounts of bail.”

The current law raises dual problems, according to Rabner. Poor defendants who pose little threat can often languish behind bars, while affluent defendants who have the means and assets can post bail and be released, even if there is evidence that they pose a real threat to society.

“The report calls for a constitutional amendment and a statute that would allow for pre-trial detention of defendants who pose a serious risk of flight and danger to the community,” Rabner said. “If the proposals that have been presented are enacted, we believe that they will make New Jersey’s system of criminal justice better, fairer and safer.”

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-West Deptford) has been drafting criminal justice reform bills, and he responded to the report.

“I’ve been working for some time on legislation to reform the criminal justice process in New Jersey, and this report will be an invaluable resource and framework as all three branches of government hopefully move forward together in the coming months,” Burzichelli wrote in an emailed press release. “This issue must be free of partisanship and politics. Working together, we can reform this system and create a safer and more just New Jersey. I’m confident we’re headed in the right direction.”

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