A state mandate requiring county courts to issue non-monetary bail alternatives to those arrested and awaiting trial in county jails will cost counties an estimated $45 million statewide, according to the New Jersey Association of Counties. The reform mandate was issued because many of these individuals cannot afford bail and thus languish for months before a trial.
The reform mandate also sets timeframes to ensure “speedy” trials, for the most part requiring trials to start within two years of being charged.
NJAC has issued a statement saying it agrees with the goal but that the law will require the remodeling of court facilities and the hiring of additional prosecutors and other staff, such as sheriff’s officers. An increase in court fees will provide $42 million for more legal-defense lawyers, creation of pretrial services to determine the risk posed by defendants, and new software system. But it will not pay for the additional burden on the court system. NJAC is asking for relief of the 2 percent cap on its budget — and thus higher taxes — in order to meet this need.
County officials are also meeting this week to discuss regionalizing some activities.