By Michelle Sartor Lang
Senior Multimedia Web Producer
Gov. Chris Christie advocated for bail reform ahead of the special legislative session on bail reform. He said he wants to strike a balance between keeping the public safe and allowing non-violent offenders to await trial at home.
Christie said the bail system is no longer serving people and is no longer fair to those involved.
Under the current system, all people arrested and charged with a crime are entitled to bail. Therefore some violent offenders are out on bail. On the other end of the spectrum, non-violent offenders who don’t have the financial resources to pay minimal bail remain in jail for at times up to a year awaiting trial.
“We need to give judges the discretion to look at a career violent criminal and say enough is enough,” Christie said. “The danger posed to community outweighs your right to bail and you will stay in jail until your case is lawfully adjudicated. We need to make sure that folks who will not comply with society’s simple rules of violence and murder are kept away from the innocent people in society.”
He said the current bail system has created a debtor’s prison, which is unfair to those who do not have the money to pay minimal bail.
“These changes are serious,” Christie said. “I don’t come here lightly today. This is our responsibility. There is on one else to pass this one off to. This is something we need to do and is long overdue.”
Christie said the current system is failing the very people it is meant to protect.
“This is urgently needed and will serve the people of our state fairly and justly,” he said.
The governor said there’s no reason to wait any longer for bail reform, which he said he proposed two years ago and has support from both parties and the ACLU.
Making changes to the bail system needs a constitutional amendment, which requires a ballot question for voters. Christie urged lawmakers to approve a measure to put the question on the November ballot.
“I hope it’s your sense of fairness and justice to vote and vote today,” he said.
NJTV News will have a full report of the special legislative session tonight at 6, 7:30 and 11 p.m.